The Brainerd Warriors left everything they had on the floor Monday night in the final home game of seven seniors' careers.
But it wasn't meant to be as the Moorhead Spuds escaped with a 74-72 Section 8-4A victory.
Despite a fierce Brainerd comeback from a 15-point deficit, and the fact the Warriors outscored Moorhead 41-30 in the second half, the Spuds still secured a controversial win.
"They've all given a lot of blood, sweat and tears to Warrior basketball," Brainerd coach Matt Urbanek said. "They all have left a lot of themselves out here. They gave a good account of themselves tonight. We wanted to send them out with a win but I was very proud of their effort."
Moorhead 74, Warriors 72
The key: The Spuds shot 55.3 percent from the field.
Overall: Brd 7-17, Moor 9-14
Next: Brainerd at St. Cloud Tech 7:30 p.m. Friday.
With the score tied at 72 and 15 seconds left after a Thomas Fairbanks three, the Warriors tried to call timeout. One official apparently blew his whistle as the Spuds inbounded the ball but Moorhead's Zach Dalen broke away for an easy lay-up with about six seconds left.
After huddling for several minutes officials ruled Moorhead had already inbounded the ball and the whistle was inadvertent.
"My contention was if he blew the whistle then my guys stop playing defense," Urbanek said. "We're trained to stop playing when the whistle blows. Then it should have been an inadvertent whistle, Moorhead should have been awarded the ball and they would have been correct to not grant me the timeout.
"They decided that nobody heard the whistle. We had about three players after the game that said they stopped playing defense because they heard the whistle. That's how they got the breakaway lay-up. Otherwise, I firmly believe we would have defended in the last (six) seconds.
"Having said that, we're not going to blame any loss on referees. Moorhead played well, they shot very well. We need to put ourselves in a position where a referee's whistle isn't going to decide the game. That didn't decide the game."
With two seconds left the Warriors had the ball out of bounds near midcourt. The ball was inbounded to Kyle Crocker who put up a contested three from about 25 feet that bounced off the backboard.
"We had a couple screens designed, one to get Kyle to the corner, one to get Ben Gervais curling up around the top of the key," Urbanek said. "We were going to look for one of them to have a chance to catch and shoot. We didn't have a great look at it but we did have a shot."
Moorhead shot 55.6 percent in the first half to seize a 44-31 edge. The Spuds' Scott Petry buried 7 of 9 shots in the first, including six threes, and had 20 points. He did not score again.
The Warriors roared back from a 58-43 deficit with full-court pressure and outscored Moorhead 41-30 in the second. Crocker scored 17 of his game-high 24 in the second, Fairbanks nine of his 13.
"Thomas had a huge shot late in the game to tie the score, it just wasn't quite enough," Urbanek said.
Two free throws by Jon Wiese, with 5:26 remaining, gave Brainerd its first lead, 62-61 since early in the game. Wiese finished with 12 points in his final home game.
"I was incredibly proud of our team tonight because we ended up with a big deficit," Urbanek said. "It wasn't because we played poorly. It was because Moorhead was shooting the lights out. They seemed like they couldn't miss a three early in the game. They earned the lead that way.
"We were talking as a team, that they're not going to continue shooting that way the whole game. We talked about we had to show discipline, show some composure, keep battling, and take one possession at a time, and we'll get back in it.
• Crocker enters Friday's regular-season finale at Tech one point shy of 1,000.
Moorhead 44 30 - 74
Brainerd 31 41 - 72
Scott Petry 20, Erik Slette 5, Zach Dalen 3, Ryan Sederquist 16, Michael White 10, Sam Stetz 9, Wes Anderson 9, Kristian Lien 2. FG 26-47 (55.3 percent). FT 13-26. Three-point baskets: Petry 6, Slette, Sederquist 2. Turnovers: 15.
Jon Wiese 12, Mike Gervenak 3, Ben Gervais 3, T.J. Struss 2, Sam Feyder 7, Thomas Fairbanks 13, Kyle Crocker 24, Aaron Pavek 8. FG 27-73 (37 percent). FT 11-16. Three-point baskets: Wiese 2, Gervais, Fairbanks, Crocker 3. Turnovers: 17.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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