Inaccurate shooting has tormented the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team all season.
The Warriors entered Thursday's opening round of the Section 8, Class 4A tournament with a 40-percent season average. Against the fifth-seeded St. Cloud Tech Tigers the fourth-seeded Warriors shot 31 percent from the field and 58 percent at the line and wound up losing 62-50.
While countless Warrior shots rimmed in and out, Tech drained 53 percent as it advanced to Saturday's semifinal matchup against top-seeded St. Cloud Apollo.
The Tigers scored the game's first eight points and never looked back. They made layup after layup, led by 6-foot-4 post players Paul Ferber and Jay Mrozek.
Ferber led all scorers with 26 points, 16 in the second half. He sank all but two of his 13 field-goal attempts.
Mrozek added 18 points, 12 in the second half, as Tech continued its late-season surge. The Tigers ended the regular season with a 1-point win over Apollo, an 11-point loss to Alexandria and a 5-point loss to second-seeded Moorhead.
"We are playing more intense and a lot smarter," Tech coach Steve Howe-Veenstra said, "and we're getting the ball into our posts. Our posts have improved a lot. Ferber has come on.
"Having Jay and Paul in the post that's a tough tandem to stop them both. We get it to Jay a lot and that opens up Paul who gets a lot of offensive rebounds. Paul has had a ton in the last four or five games. Our guys shoot with confidence when they know Ferber is over there to get offensive rebounds."
Tech outrebounded the Warriors by a whopping 35-13 margin as Mrozek grabbed 11 and Ferber 8.
The Tigers also played watertight defense. They put the clamps on Matt Yde, Brainerd's leading scorer. An 18-point averager, Yde managed just five points.
"They did a great job on Yde," Brainerd coach Brad Amundson said. "They cheated on him and harassed him.
"Give Tech a lot of credit. They kind of extended their defense. That's not like a usual Tech team. We thought we could hurt them with dribble penetration.
"When we tried to drive we couldn't finish. They were able to control our guys. They stayed on their feet. They made us throw up some off-balance shots."
Justin Heitkamp made five of nine attempts and led Brainerd with 15 points. Mike Zauhar added 13 points as the Warriors finished 6-17 in their first season under Amundson.
It was the first time Tech had beaten Brainerd in three meetings this season. The Warriors won 79-76 in overtime Jan. 14 and 64-57 on Feb. 22.
"This was a totally different team than we played three weeks ago," Amundson said. "I thought we came in with a good plan. Ferber did the same thing against Apollo's 6-6, 6-5 guys.
"He's the difference right now for Tech. He gives them a second inside threat. When you have two post players that you can go to there's a good chance to score every time down the floor. That's tough to defend. At times we did a good job. At other times we bogged down.
"It was not a lack of effort. Our kids layed their guts on the line out there. They played with a lot of heart. I'm proud of our effort. Tech outplayed us a little bit offensively. That was the difference."
St. Cloud Tech 16 12 11 23 --62
Brainerd 11 10 12 16 --50
ST. CLOUD TECH (62)
Nick Thielman 5, Jay Mrozek 18, Dan Kaczor 5, Mark Busch 0, Paul Ferber 26, Chris Carlson 6. Team totals: FG 23-43 (53 percent), FT 16-24 (67 percent). Overall -- 8-15.
Joe Morgan 6, Mitch Feierabend 7, Matt Yde 5, Mike Zauhar 13, Justin Heitkamp 15, Adam Hardy 4, Dan Karlgaard 0. Team totals: FG 16-51 (31 percent), FT 14-24 (58 percent). Overall -- Finish 6-17
3-point baskets -- SCT 0-6, B 4-20 (Zauhar, Heitkamp 3). Rebounds -- SCT 35 (Mrozek 11, Ferber 8), B 13 (Hardy 6). Total fouls -- SCT 19, B 21. Fouled out -- Carlson, Feierabend. Assists -- SCT 15 (Thielman 5), B 10. Blocks -- SCT 6 (Ferber 2).
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