Call them the Brainerd Warriors' 12 days of Christmas.
It had been 12 days since Brainerd last played a game, but the long layoff didn't show in a 70-63 victory over the Bemidji Lumberjacks Wednesday night.
The Warriors led for virtually the entire game (Bemidji's only leads were 17-14 in the first half, 36-35 in the second), maintained their composure, knocked down a majority of their shots and received a boost from their bench.
It was only Brainerd's second home game and coincidentally its second win after three losses in between.
"It feels good to get back in the win column, especially at home," said Brainerd guard Kyle Crocker, who scored a game-high 22 points. "We play well here for some reason.
Garth Askegaard (right) pushed past Dan Frost and other Bemidji Lumberjacks toward the net Wednesday during Brainerd's victory. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We just brought more energy than we have the other (three) nights (on the road)."
Brainerd shot 45 percent from the field (24-53) and dropped in 16 of its 22 free throws (73 percent) while keeping its turnovers to a minimum (16).
The Warriors scored the game's first nine points, but Bemidji battled back to tie it 14-14 at the 11:29 mark. The Warriors then began applying a 3-2 zone, against which Bemidji struggled and Brainerd outscored the Lumberjacks 19-14 the rest of the first.
Back-to-back threes by Carey Woods, who led Bemidji with 21 points, gave the Lumberjacks a 36-35 lead early in the second. Brainerd outscored the Lumberjacks 35-27 the rest of the way.
"We've seen them play a couple times," Warriors coach Wade Haapajoki said. "They're pretty athletic. Woods and (Ryan) Rude want to get to the hoop - now. It's not that we can't defend them, but if we take a step off they'll shoot the three.
"I thought Garth (Askegaard) in our 3-2 really moved around. His energy carried us on both ends of the floor. Kevin Peterson came in and got some big boards and Thomas Fairbanks got some big boards and we made some shots.
"If you can make shots and play the 3-2 you're going to be in the game, if not have a chance to win it."
Aaron Pavek had 15 points for Brainerd and Joel Martin and Askegaard each added seven. The Warriors' bench outscored Bemidji's 17-5 as Peterson scored eight, Fairbanks seven and Mitch Bzdok two.
Warriors 70, Bemidji 63
The key: Brainerd led virtually from start to finish.
Overall: Bem 4-3, Brd 2-3
Next: Brainerd vs. St. Michael-Albertville at St. Michael 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
"I thought Kevin had a great game," Haapajoki said. "He came off the bench and sometimes we say come out slinging because we've got to get shots. If you can do that, that's big for us."
The Lumberjacks won their first four games, but have dropped three straight in nine days, including 86-73 to Class 3A's fifth-ranked Grand Rapids and 82-66 to 3A's third-ranked DeLaSalle Tuesday night.
"You could tell they were a little tired but it is what it is," Haapajoki said. "They're pretty athletic, and they're young, coach (Jeff) Brown even said they're a young team, but I'm not worried about anybody else.
"We've got to take care of business, knock down shots and compete. We're going to find 7-8 guys that are willing to compete and be part of this thing."
Bemidji 28 35 - 63
Brainerd 33 37 - 70
Ryan Rude 19, Czar Woods 12, Carey Woods 21, Dan Frost 6, Josh Kane 2, Mitch Brown 3. FG 26-63 (41 percent). FT 6-9 (67 percent). 3-point baskets: Brown, Czar Woods 2, Carey Woods 2. Turnovers: 10.
Joel Martin 7, Kyle Crocker 22, Aaron Pavek 15, Chris Rud 2, Garth Askegaard 7, Thomas Fairbanks 7, Kevin Peterson 8, Mitch Bzdok 2. FG 24-53 (45 percent). FT 16-22 (73 percent). 3-point baskets: Crocker 3, Martin, Peterson 2. Turnovers: 16.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.