As the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team learns how to play together it will learn how to finish off an opponent.
The Warriors trailed Sartell just 36-34 after three quarters Tuesday. At that point the big, veteran, physical Sabres took command of the game on their way to a 52-38 Central Lakes Conference victory.
Unbeaten Sartell, which returns four starters, swished 10 of 13 free throws in the final period. It outscored Brainerd 16-4 in that stretch, shutting the Warriors out in the final five minutes.
Sartell finished 19 of 28 (68 percent) from the foul line.
"We have a goal every game to make more (free throws) than our opponents shoot," Sartell coach Dave Angell said. "We want to be aggressive with the basketball and we don't want to foul. We think if we do that, that will be huge."
The Warriors tied the game 36-36 with 7:33 to play on a pair of Justin Mueller free throws. His alley-oop layup, off a dazzling Zach Eastman assist about two minutes later, accounted for Brainerd's final score.
"We're certainly not happy with losing a game," Warriors coach Matt Urbanek said, "but I thought this was a game we can take some positives from. We played a very good team, and we did some good things.
"A lot of our guys are not used to playing together. I think as the year goes along we're going to get better and better and more consistent."
The Warriors put together a consistent defensive effort in the third quarter, giving Sartell fits with a zone. Brainerd outscored the Sabres 11-9 in the quarter and didn't let Sartell march to the foul line.
"Against a zone you've got to get the ball inside," Angell said. "You've got to make something happen, whether you score yourself, draw a foul or kick it back out to the perimeter. That's the 3-point shot we want to shoot.
"Instead, we were passing it around with four guys on the perimeter and letting somebody else jack it up."
Brainerd hopes to jack up its shooting accuracy. It made just 35 percent of its field goals and only went to the foul line seven times, making three.
"I was proud of our team, how hard we played," Urbanek said. "We played very well for stretches. We need to work on our consistency. We need to take the ball to the basket more in the fourth quarter. I think we started shooting too many outside shots and they weren't falling."
The Warriors were led by Blake Eller's 16 points and played without starting post Jase Renneke, who missed the game with the flu.
"We would liked to have had Jase in there," Urbanek said. "He would have given us some rebounding and an inside presence, but the guys who were out there stepped up and did pretty well."
Sartell 13 14 9 16 -- 52
Brainerd 12 11 11 4 -- 38
Brian Schellinger 3, Dan Sebastian 6, Greg Gasser 17, Chad Schnettler 6, Marcus Oistad 8, Trent Phelps 3, Justin Wilkes 2, Gordon Volk 7. Team totals: FG 15-41 (37 percent), FT 19-28 (68 percent). 3-point baskets -- 3-10 (Sebastian, Oistad, Gasser). Conference -- 2-0. Overall -- 3-0.
Blake Eller 16, Justin Mueller 8, Zach Eastman 2, Lucas Brick 3, Matt Steiger 4, Adian Kummet 3, Ryan Forcier 2. Team totals: FG 16-46 (35 percent), FT 3-7 (43 percent). 3-point baskets -- 3-18 (Eller 2, Brick). Conference -- 0-2. Overall -- 0-2. Next game: at Little Falls 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Turnovers -- B 16. Steals -- B 8 (Eastman 4). Assists -- B 10 (Eastman 6). Rebounds -- B 24 (Steiger 5).
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