BRAINERD -- Down by as much as 14 points in a rocky first half, the Willmar Cardinals outscored Brainerd 33-17 out of the halftime locker room to claim a 62-57 win in boys Central Lakes basketball on Thursday.
Mo Mohamud hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:20 left for a 57-55 Willmar lead. The senior guard, who had a big steal to ignite Willmar's second-half comeback, finished with a game-high 14 points.
Willmar's surge was helped by playing nearly turnover-free the second half while the Warriors went cold from the floor the last 18 minutes.
Willmar's Alex Grove finished with 12 points, including his first two 3-pointers of the season. He also nailed 5 rebounds.
Top scorer Jimmy Unger added 9 points on a pair of 3-pointers and by making 3 of 4 free throw chances in the last 80 seconds of the game. Jeremy Olson had a season-high 8 points off the bench while guard Joe Leuze made some key plays in the backcourt. Dean Stier hit 8 points, half of driving layups. Austin Rambow finished with 5 points after sitting most of the first half.
Willmar got in early foul trouble. Rambow, Grove and Unger were all sitting with two fouls. Rambow was on the bench for good with only 4 minutes gone. Brainerd took 16 foul shots in the first half; Willmar none.
Brainerd led by as much as 14 after a 16-4 run to build a 36-22 lead. Willmar closed the gap to 11 by half, 40-29.
At intermission, the Cardinals put the past behind them and came out both barrels blazing.
Baskets by Rambow and Stier got the Warriors' lead down to one, 48-47 and Grove, on a fast-break pass from Leuze put Willmar ahead for the first time, 49-48, with 8 minutes left.
Brainerd took back the lead 56-53. Stier twisted through the lane for two and Mohamud drilled a 3-pointer at 2:20 for a 57-55 lead. Unger hit two at the line at 1:20 for a 59-55 lead.
The Cardinals missed some pressure free throws in the last minute but Brainerd couldn't hit at the other end.
The Cardinals now has won five straight but this was the most impressive coming against a good AAAA team away from home. Riley Kline's 13 points led Brainerd, who made all 7 of their threes in the first half.
Willmar (3-1, 6-1) is next at Sartell on Tuesday.
Willmar 62, Brainerd 57
Willmar (3-1, 6-1) 29 33-- 62
Brainerd (1-2, 4-4) 40 17-- 57
WILLMAR - 24-54 FG (7-17 3-pt); 7-14 FT; 26 rebounds; 13 fouls ... Scoring: Dean Stier 8, Joe Leuze 1, Jimmy Unger 9, Matt Suedbeck 3, Jeremy Olson 8, Mo Mohamud 14, Brandon Zuedema 2, Austin Rambow 5, Alex Grove 12 ... 3-point shots: Unger 2, Grove 2, Mo Mohaumud 2, Suedbeck 1 ... Rebound leaders: Grove 5, Unger 4 ... Assist leaders: Leuze 5 ... Steal leaders: Mohamud 3 ... Blocks: Unger 4
BRAINERD - 19-57 FG (7-24 3-pt); 12-23 FT; 35 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Blake Peterson 8, Tony Sauer 5, Jack Sauer 12, Riley Kline 13, Dustin Borlaug 9, Chris Bowman 8, Jager Hanson 2 ... 3-point shots: Peterson 2, T. Sauer 1, J. Sauer 3, Kline 1