The St. Cloud Tech Tigers are ranked seventh in Class 4A girls' basketball.
They have reeled off 20 straight victories since their only loss, 54-50, at Elk River on Dec. 21.
Those facts don't faze Brainerd Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson as his team prepares to play the Tigers for the Section 8-4A championship Friday at St. John's University.
"We just have to go out and play, not worry about what position they're in," Hendrickson said. "There's already been talk about Tech being at the state tournament, and possibly being a No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed, the others are a blind draw.
"If people want to do that this early that's fine with us. We'll just go out and play and when the game's over we'll look up at the scoreboard and see where we are."
Brainerd Warriors junior guard Emily Thesing (right) was pressured by a Buffalo player as she brought the ball up the court in their section quarterfinal game Feb. 26 at Brainerd High School.
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Tech won both meetings during the regular season, including 54-50 Jan. 11 at Brainerd. The Warriors led by four with about two minutes remaining.
"They went into a little half-court trap and we threw it away," Hendrickson said. "We came down like three times and threw the ball away with under two minutes to go and they capitalized. They turned a four-point lead into a four-point win."
The Tigers won the rematch 63-45 Feb. 22 at St. Cloud.
"They really shot the ball well coming right out of the locker room," Hendrickson said. "They got off to a great start. We were down 10-0 or 12-0 before we scored. We didn't mount any kind of attack.
"In the second half we changed our lineup. We put in some young kids and let them play. It was one of those things where they got off to a great start and it snowballed on us. We didn't come back and challenge them.
Section 8-4A championship
Who: Third-seeded Brainerd (20-7) vs. No. 1 St. Cloud Tech (27-1)
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: St. John's University, Collegeville
"I was surprised the second time we weren't a little more focused and ready to play. They were conference champs, they had only lost once, we were playing for a little higher section seed and we just didn't perform."
Tech is led in scoring by senior guard Jordyn Sears who averages 20 points. Senior post Kristin Johnson (6-foot-2) averages 15.8, senior Erin Foley 11.9 and junior Hannah Zweiner 11.1. Junior guard Megan Grey (4.1) completes the starting lineup.
Top reserves are freshman Rachel Zweiner (3.5 ppg) and senior Emily Brinkman (3.2).
"They just have a lot of weapons," Hendrickson said. "They've got 3-point shooters, they've got the big girl inside, they have a good inside-outside game. They play aggressive on defense, they rebound, they get out and run, we will have to play a very good basketball game against them."
Brainerd is led in scoring by junior point guard Emily Thesing (12.3 ppg). She is followed by seniors Megan Bates (10.3), Kayla Huether (8.9), Stephanie Neugebauer (8.3) and Karlye Barron (7.3).
Barron leads in rebounds (9.1 average) followed by Neugebauer (5.8) and Bates (5.1). Thesing leads the team in steals (69) and Bates in assists (105).
Six different players came off the bench and contributed in a 51-45 semifinal victory over second-seeded Bemidji.
"We played 11 girls the other night," Hendrickson said. "Will we play 11 Friday? My guess is probably not but we'll be playing on a big floor so if we have to sub we will sub. We will need to have our top kids on the floor."
Hendrickson expects a big crowd, with a college track meet going on simultaneously with the Brainerd-Tech game, which precedes the Section 5-3A championship between Rogers and Becker.
"I think it will be just packed," he said. "I think there will be a lot of Rogers and Becker people who will get there early. I don't know that they will make much noise for our game but it should be just packed in there. I think it will be a great atmosphere for a section final game."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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