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Willmar tops Brainerd in home debut

Willmar's Jordan Smith (23) drives to the hoop in the second half, splitting Brainerd defenders Sam Feyder, left, and Mike Gervenak in the first half at Willmar Thursday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton1 / 2
Brainerd's Aaron Pavek falls on top of Willmar's Ryan Filipek while scraping for a rebound in the first half Thursday in Willmar. Alec Saunders, left, and Isaiah Streed are looking on for Willmar. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

WILLMAR -- Down by three points at haltime, the Willmar Cardinals outscored Brainerd by 20 points the second half to claim a 62-45 Central Lakes Conference win in boys basketball on Thursday.

Willmar struggled over the first 15 minutes in its home debut before knocking a double-digit deficit down to 31-28 at intermission.

"The first half, the boys looked nervous in their first home game," said coach Steve Grove. "It was a good crowd and it took them a while to settle down."

What settled Willmar down were four consecutive three-pointers -- two by Alec Saunders and two by Jordan Smith -- that gave Willmar a 44-39 lead early in ther second half.

Smith would finish with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Saunders and Brian Reeves each finished with eight points. Taylor Filipek (six steals, five assists) and Ryan Filipek scored six points each. Willmar went 2-2 in four road games. The Cardinals are back on the bus on Saturday for a night game against Alexandria, which is under first-year head coach Forrest Witt, the former Morris Area High School and St. Cloud State standout.

Brainerd didn't look like a 0-3 team the first 18 minutes.

The Warriors' defense pestered Willmar into numerous mistakes and 6-5 Andy Pavek helped the visitors gain numerous offensive rebounds.

But the key was the Brainerd perimeter game which poured in seven 3-pointers. Three of those were by Kyle Crocker, who hit a trey at the end of the half broke a 28-28 tie after Willmar had trailed by as much as 11.

Crokcer ended up with 15 points followed by Ben Gervais with 14.

Willmar amassed a 31-20 edge in rebounds and made 24 of 36 shots, according to the Cardinal statisticians.

Willmar 62, Brainerd 45

Brainerd (0-4, 0-4) 31 14 -- 45

Willmar (2-0, 3-2) 28 34 -- 62

BRAINERD - 18-46 FG (7-16 3-pt); 2-4 FT; 20 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Jon Wiese 5, Mike Gervenak 2, Ben Gervais 14, Kyle Crocker 15, Joel Martin 3, Aaron Pavek 4, Sam Feyder 2 ... 3-point shots: Crocker 3, Gervais 2, Wiese 1, Martin 1 ... Rebound leaders: not available

WILLMAR - 24-36 FG (6-11 3-pt); 8-13 FT; 31 rebounds; 10 fouls ... Scoring: Jordan Smith 24, Alec Saunders 8, Brian Reeves 8, Logan Birkland 2, Jim Neis 4, Isaiah Streed 4, Taylor Filipek 6, Ryan Filipek 6 ... 3-point shots: Smith 4, Saunders 2 ... Rebound leaders: Smith 14, Streed 3, T. Filipek 4, R. Filipek 4, Reeves 3 ... Assist leaders: T. Filipek 5, Streed 2, Smith 3, Birkland 2, Saunders 2 ... Steal leaders: T. Filipek 6 ... Blocked shots: Smith 1, Streed 1, R. Filipek 1