Emily Lueck makes the Pequot Lakes Patriots tick.
The Patriots' leading scorer as a sophomore last season opened the 2009-10 campaign with a whale of an effort in Tuesday's decisive 72-52 victory over the Brainerd Warriors.
Lueck pumped in 22 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 28. She sank 8 of 9 shots from the field in the first and finished a whopping 11 of 16, sparking the Patriots to 48-percent shooting (31 of 64).
"We're going to look to her, obviously," Patriots coach Jon Dale said. "She was our leading scorer coming back. We miss (graduated) Mindy Howard, but Emily does a lot of good things."
Emily Lueck (left) of Pequot Lakes drove for a shot while Brainerd's Alex Sauer defended in Tuesday's season opener. Lueck scored a game-high 28 points. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Lueck is one of many weapons for Pequot Lakes, whose other starters back are Kylie Beltz, Kirsten Noska and Mattie Lueck. Beltz contributed 14 points (11 in the first half), Noska eight and Mattie Lueck four. Four others who played last year also return for the Patriots.
"We've got a pretty nice junior class actually," said Dale, who succeeded Bob Nelson, who resigned before the season. "Our seniors all get along with (the juniors) so it's a good mix. I was very fortunate to step into a pretty nice situation."
The Patriots' defense complemented their offense, forcing Brainerd into a whopping 45 turnovers, 28 in the first half. Pequot applied full-court pressure most of the first half, where many of the turnovers were committed, while the rest were mainly on bad passes.
"We knew we were going to get pressured," Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson said, "and we knew we were going to turn it over, but any time you turn it over 45 times the outcome will be like we had tonight. They probably could have gotten a few more points on us.
"Our kids just have to keep working hard on both ends of the floor, and get some experience."
Shooting compounded the Warriors' problems. They shot just 36 percent (20 of 56) from the floor and were led by Alex Sauer's 14 points (11 in the first half) and Tess Rahto's 12.
Pequot Lakes 72, Warriors 52
The key: The Patriots shot 48 percent and Brainerd turned the ball over 45 times.
Overall: PL 1-0, Brd 0-1
Next: Brainerd at Rogers 5 p.m. Saturday; Pequot hosts Park Rapids 7:30 p.m. Friday
"We were so worried about throwing the ball away that when we did get a good look at the basket we rushed our shots," Hendrickson said. "We didn't have our feet set. We just can't play that kind of basketball against a team that has that kind of experience and expect to keep it close, and we obviously didn't do that.
"We were never really in it after three or four minutes. They just jumped on us, and it snowballed. We just have to dig ourselves out of that right now. We'll keep working with our kids. We think we can be pretty good but it's going to take us a while to get going."
The Patriots got going immediately, dashing to a 14-2 lead, and never looked back. They had two 11-point runs in the first half, along with an 8-point burst, and led 49-29 at the intermission. Brainerd trailed by 28 early in the second half.
"We hung in there in the second half a little bit," Hendrickson said. "We saw some things we did a little bit better in the second half, but we have to pass the ball better. We have to block out and we certainly have to get back on defense against a team that's quick like that.
"That just showed, our inexperience overall. That whole phase of the game showed. Their experience showed on the other end of the court. They had a lot of experience back and they hustled. You have to give them credit."
Pequot Lakes 49 23 - 72
Brainerd 29 23 - 52
Kylie Beltz 14, Katelyn Schmidt 7, Emily Lueck 28, Mattie Lueck 4, Kirsten Noska 8, Kayla Wangen 5, Kendra Johnson 2, Sarah Thomas 4. FG 31-64 (.48 percent), FT 7-13. 3-point baskets: Beltz, Schmidt, E. Lueck. Turnovers: 22.
Alex Sauer 14, Emilee Branum 6, Tess Rahto 12, Gretchen Kletscher 4, Carlie Sweet 6, Ally Mueller 5, Jackie Maybon 3, Jalynn Lamb 2. FG 20-56 (36 percent), FT 9-13. 3-point baskets: Sauer 2, Maybon. Turnovers: 45.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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