As one of its most experienced returning players, the Brainerd Warriors girls' basketball team is expecting a big contribution from Cara Wiltse this season.
The 5-foot-8 senior delivered Tuesday in a 51-45 Central Lakes Conference victory over the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles.
Wiltse sank 8 of 11 attempts from the field, 4 of 7 from 3-point range, for a game- and career-high 21 points, helping Brainerd even its record at 1-1.
In a season-opening loss against Duluth East, Wiltse had just six points.
Warriors 51, Apollo 45
The key: Cara Wiltse scored a game- and career-high 21 points for Brainerd, which limited the Eagles to 33-percent shooting.
Next game: Sartell at Brainerd 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
"I had a really good practice (Monday)," she said. "I shot some threes and made them. (Assistant coach Ron Gilbertson) had a talk with me. We just said to keep it up, work on it (Tuesday). I just kind of had that mindset."
Junior Danielle Uphoff had an offensive mindset as she contributed 11 points off the bench against matchup zone and man-to-man defenses.
"We put in a couple new wrinkles just for Apollo," Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson said, "and I think it gave our kids some good looks at the basket. Danielle and Cara both were able to knock those shots down. We have to have that outside scoring because we're going to see a lot of zones."
Neither team was in a zone offensively. The Warriors shot 36 percent from the field while Apollo made just 33 percent.
Turnovers contributed to both teams' ineffectiveness on offense. Brainerd turned the ball over 36 times to Apollo's 29.
"At halftime we talked about doing a better job against their press," Hendrickson said. "I think we had 21 turnovers at the half. We talked about cutting that down to 10. I think we had 13 in the second half. We also did a better job rebounding. And, our hustle was good in the second half.
"When they respond to things you talk about at halftime that's a sign of not only them listening but of them starting to understand what we need them to do to be a better basketball team."
The Warriors' defense responded against Apollo's 6-2 post Jacquie Hartman, who has signed with Minnesota-Duluth. Hartman scored just seven points, two in the second half and battled foul trouble.
"Our defense did a nice job on Hartman," Hendrickson said. "Kaitlyn Manlick did a nice job of playing a little bit more physical with her, not giving her a lot of opportunities to get the ball inside. When she gets the ball at the high post that's where she's dangerous because she's going to take it to the basket."
Brainerd's biggest lead was 35-27 in the third quarter, during which it outscored the Eagles 15-10.
Apollo scratched within 38-35 in the fourth but the Warriors held them off by making 10 of 16 free throws.
"We seemed to be able to hang in there, get a basket when we needed one," Hendrickson said, "then they would make a run back at us. We bent a little bit but never gave up."
St. Cloud Apollo 9 12 10 14 -- 45
Brainerd 9 13 15 14 -- 51
ST. CLOUD APOLLO
Amy Steffes 4, Kelle Parsons 2, Britta Hagberg 11, Kelsey VanAckeren 11, Jacquie Hartman 7, Andrea Hagberg 7, Ashley Frericks 3. FG: 16-48 (33 percent), FT 11-17 (65 percent). 3-point baskets: 2-15 (B.Hagberg, A.Hagberg ). Conference -- 0-2. Overall -- 0-3.
Erika Austin 6, Cara Wiltse 21, Lindsey Jourdan 8, Kaitlyn Manlick 4, Danielle Uphoff 11, Joetta Johnson 1. FG: 16-45 (36 percent), FT 14-25 (56 percent). 3-point baskets: 5-12 (Wiltse 4, Uphoff). Conference -- 1-0. Overall -- 1-1.
Rebounds -- SCA 24, B 34 (Austin 11). Turnovers -- SCA 29, B 36. Steals -- B 14 (Austin 6, Wiltse 5). Assists -- B 11 (Jourdan 6).
Mike Bialka can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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