Nine different Warriors found the scoring column in their 62-41 win over the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles in a Central Lakes Conference game.
Brainerd led by as many as 35 points in the second half behind its 1-3-1 zone.
“If I ask the kids, that’s the defense they want to play,” Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said. “We have a lot of confidence in it and the kids love doing it because we get to be aggressive. We create a lot of deflections and indecision on the other team.
“We are a really unselfish basketball team. We are not afraid to kick it up to a teammate and make that extra pass. When we are doing that and making shots. It makes us a lot harder to defend.”
The Warriors forced Apollo into 23 turnovers and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds.
Ally Brzezinski finished with a game-high 17 points with Meghan Smith right behind her with 13.
“It’s really fun,” Smith said of everyone getting involved on offense. “In practice, we talk about sharing the ball and not being selfish with it.”
Smith also plays on top of the 1-3-1 zone and accounted for multiple steals for Brainerd.
“It was really important that we set the tone early because it picks the pace for the rest of the game,” Smith said. “That’s what we try to practice — jumping on the ball, and getting steals when we can.”
Nelson likes the way Smith plays at both ends especially on top of the zone.
“On the defensive end, she plays with that energy at the top of our zone,” Nelson said. “She’s really good at reading what the offense is going to do and getting deflections. She runs the floor really well. On offense, she runs our motion curl cuts really well. She sets them up and comes off of them and gets some really easy looks.”
Smith acknowledged that she loves playing the zone and said it fuels their offense.
“I love playing on the top,” Smith said. “I think it’s because it gets lots of tips and even if you don’t you are forcing them to throw it and someone else can get a steal off it.”
Brainerd went on a 20-0 run in the first half to claim a 29-7 lead. Brzezinski and Smith carried the scoring for most of the run capitalizing on turnovers.
“We started a little slow, but we switched up our defense and got a lot of deflections and steals,” Nelson said. “When we do that we can push the ball up the floor and run.”
Nelson said his stats had the Warriors doubled up Apollo on the rebounds in the first half, including 13 offensive rebounds.
“We talk about how we need all five to rebound, and in the first half I thought we did that,” Nelson said.
Apollo struggled in the first half going 4-for-24 from the field and 1-for-11 from 3-point.
Brainerd is now riding a three-game winning streak with its next opponent being Class 2A’s 10th-ranked Fergus Falls Tuesday, Feb. 9, at home.
“We talk all the time about just going out and playing our game and do what we do,” Nelson said. “We are building from game-to-game and tonight we took a step toward that. We got Fergus Falls next and hopefully, we play them better than we did last time and come out with a W.”
Apollo 11 30 — 41
Brainerd 38 24 — 62
ST. CLOUD APOLLO
Jaida Hansen 13, Keshona McGaughy 10, Keiara Anderson 10, Lauren Freeman 6, Serenitie Jackson-Banks 2. FG 15-50 (30%), FT 7-9 (78%). 3-point 4-14 (29%).
Hillary Hoelz 6, Kate Stadum 5, Emma Sheflo 1, Myah Nelson 7, Meghan Smith 13, Ally Brzezinski 17, Iyana Pickar 9, Emma Tautges 3, Kylie Johnson 1. FG 21-65 (32%), FT 18-29 (62%). 3-point 2-11 (18%).
Warriors 62, Apollo 41
Key: Warriors force 23 turnovers in blowout win of Eagles.
Conference: Brd 3-2, SCA 0-5.
Overall: Brd 5-2, SCA 0-5.
Next: Brainerd hosts Fergus Falls 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.