Winning teams get the breaks.
The St. Cloud Tech Tigers boys' basketball team (20-5), winners of its last eight games, received two breaks in four seconds to leave Brainerd High School with a 48-38 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Brainerd Warriors Monday.
Trailing 24-22 just before halftime, the Warriors set up a play to tie the game. Like they've done so many times this year, they attempted a lob pass to high-flying senior Justin Mueller. The 6-foot-2 forward leaped, caught the pass and quickly flicked the ball toward the rim.
But Mueller, who finished with a team-high 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting, missed. The Tigers rebounded, passed it ahead to junior Karl Heine, who sailed a shot from behind the half-court line. With the ball in the air the buzzer sounded. Then the sound of Heine's 3-point attempt hitting the bottom of the net sounded.
And, the Tigers led 27-22 at the half.
"The end of that first half was a big momentum swing," said Warriors coach Matt Urbanek. "We felt like we had the alley-oop play that was in and out. Then to hit that three at the buzzer was a big swing in momentum.
"But I thought we came out in the second half and played pretty well. We held them in the third quarter for about five minutes without a point. I told our team we didn't lose a game for lack of effort."
St. Cloud Tech 48, Warriors 38
New season: The playoffs begin March 9. Brainerd's opponent has yet to be determined.
Brainerd battled back. While never leading after the first minute of the first quarter, the Warriors closed within one after two Mueller baskets and an Adian Kummet hoop to begin the second half.
Then Tech went on a 12-4 run to end the third quarter and begin the fourth.
"We thought we could beat them off the dribble and if they collapsed kick it outside for the three-pointer," said Brainerd junior Lucas Brick. "We just couldn't make any of our shots. We had a lot of open looks, but none of them fell."
Brainerd cut the lead to six with 2:34 left, but Tech's Matt Zittlow connected on four straight free throws to ice the game. Brainerd shot just 7-of-28 in the second half and finished 16-of-54 from the field, including 3-of-16 from three-point land.
"Our game plan was to keep them off the boards and I thought we did that well enough to win," said Urbanek. "We wanted to take care of the ball against their press. They basically pressed the whole game and I thought we did that well enough to win. We just didn't shoot well enough to win."
Brainerd finishes the regular season 5-20 but starts a new season March 9 when it begins the Section 8, Class 4A playoffs. If the tournament started today, Brainerd would be the seventh seed and travel to No. 2 Moorhead.
"The records are out the window and it's a brand new season," Urbanek said. "We feel like we've played competitively with a lot of teams in our section. If we come out and play four good quarters and shoot the ball well we feel like we can be competitive."
St. Cloud Tech 12 15 8 13 -- 48
Brainerd 10 12 8 8 -- 38
ST. CLOUD TECH
Peter Dusek 2, Matt Zittlow 12, Karl Heine 12, Nick Hanks 14, David Rock 8. Team totals: FG 16-42 (38 percent), FT 14-18 (78 percent), 3-point baskets: 2-6 (Heine 1, Hanks 1). Conference -- 11-4. Overall -- 16-9. Next game: at Rocori 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Blake Eller 5, Justin Mueller 14, Zach Eastman 6, Adian Kummet 4, Lucas Brick 4, Ryan Forcier 5. Team totals: FG 16-54 (30 percent), FT 3-4 (75 percent), 3-point baskets: 3-16 (Eastman 2, Eller 1). Conference -- 2-14. Overall -- 5-20. Next game: Section 8, Class 4A Quarterfinals March 9.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.