Without starting posts Tess Rahto (illness) and KB Capers (vacation) , the Brainerd Warriors needed other individuals to step up Friday night.
Nikker Graumann and many others rose to the occasion as the Warriors held off the hard-charging Rocori Spartans 55-50 in a Central Lakes Conference game.
Graumann, a senior post, scored 10 of the Warriors' first 13 points and finished with a team- and career-high 17. She drained 8 of 11 shots and grabbed five rebounds.
"It just kind of happened like that because KB was out of town for Christmas and Tess was sick," Graumann said, "so I just came in and it started."
Graumann's effort spurred Brainerd to its fourth win in the last five games. She was thrust into the starting lineup, along with Alex Sauer, who nailed 3 of 4 three-pointers.
"I thought Nikker did a nice job, coming in and stepping up," Warriors coach Carl Hendrickson said. "She scored, she got rebounds, she played defense. That's what we expect from kids when they step on the floor.
"It's just another advantage for us to get more experience. We got that tonight with Nikker, and we got some good minutes out of Alex Sauer. She shot the ball pretty well from three, and played the top of our zone pretty aggressively. We got some good minutes from kids who were new to the starting lineup."
Existing starters Emilee Branum, Emily Thesing and Kylie Stanfield contributed 12, 10 and 5 points as Brainerd improved to 4-2 overall.
Warriors 55, Rocori 50
The key: Brainerd held off the Spartans in the second half.
Conference: Brd 4-1, Roc 1-4
Overall: Brd 4-2, Roc 1-6
Next: Totino Grace at Brainerd 2:30 p.m. Jan. 2.
"We have to be happy where we are," Hendrickson said. "We're sitting at 4-2. Looking at things, we probably didn't think we'd be in this good of shape.
"We're really happy with the kids' progress. We have to continue to praise them, keep their confidence up, and I think good things will happen for us."
The Warriors went on a 13-point tear in the first half and seized a 17-5 edge. Rocori went nine minutes without a point. Brainerd's zone caused Rocori to shoot only 17.4 percent in the half.
Trailing 19-9 to start the second, Rocori got hot shooting 16 of 27 and outscoring Brainerd 41-36. The Warriors hung on by making 14 of their 28 second-half shots.
Stacy Svihel fueled the Spartans' surge, scoring 15 of her 18 points in the second. Jordan Hansen provided 13 of her 15 points in the second. Sarah Aaseth scored all of her eight points in the second.
The Spartans climbed within 44-40 with 4:30 remaining and within 53-48 with 12.2 seconds to play. Two Thesing free throws iced the victory.
Thesing dished out eight assists. Her passing hurt Rocori more than her scoring.
"Emily sees the floor so well," Hendrickson said. "She makes some passes that a lot of guards don't make. Sometime she tries to make that pass that's a little bit too difficult, but she dished it out, she ran our offense, she didn't score (as much) but she didn't have to because we got some good play from our post people and from some of our other perimeter people."
Rocori 9 41 - 50
Brainerd 19 36 - 55
Jamie Spoden 2, Jordan Hansen 15, Sarah Aaseth 8, Stacy Svihel 18, Krystal Jelen 3, Mandy Heinen 4. FG 20-50, FT 4-6, 3-point baskets Svihel 2, Hansen 3, Heinen. Turnovers: 19. Rebounds: 26.
Alex Sauer 9, Emilee Branum 12, Kylie Stanfield 5, Emily Thesing 10, Nikker Graumann 17, Bethany Luckemeyer 2. FG 23-50, FT 6-13, 3-point baskets: Sauer 3. Turnovers: 12. Rebounds: 22 (Graumann 5). Steals: 7 (Branum 3). Assists: 18 (Thesing 8).
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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