BRAINERD — The Alexandria Cardinals dominated the paint against the Brainerd Warriors Thursday, Dec. 7.
Six-foot-nine senior and Minnesota Gopher commit Grayson Grove led the inside attack for the Cardinals with 33 points to lead Alex to an 89-80 Central Lakes Conference win.
Grove scored 20 of his 33 in the second half.
“I thought we did a good job with the size advantage,” Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt said. “I thought Grayson was playing a little off balance in the first half instead of playing off two feet. He did a much better job in the second half and it was obviously something we were trying to exploit when they were playing man-to-man.”
Warriors’ head coach Charlie Schoeck said Grove was a tough cover for the Warriors.
“If you see him compared to last year, the guy has put on probably a good 30 pounds,” Schoeck said. “He’s tough to move down there. We threw a number of bodies at him and he was able to get deep and convert and that really hurt us in the second half.”
Brainerd was led by senior Luke Diem and junior Korde Roseman, who each scored 19.
For Roseman, it’s his second game with 17 points or more as a first-time starter.
“The guy has played a lot of basketball and it hasn’t taken him long to get comfortable on the court,” Schoeck said. “We notice the scoring, but really on the defensive end is where he’s made the biggest strides and that allows him to stay on the court.”
Garrett Gilbert wasn’t too far behind with 17 points and Eli Hoelz finished with 13 points and eight assists.
Alexandria held a slim 39-36 halftime lead. The Warriors held a 48-47 lead in the second half before the Cardinals went on a 15-3 run to grab an 11-point advantage.
Grove scored eight points during the run.
“I’m happy with a W against a good Brainerd team,” Witt said. “I wasn’t really happy defensively in the first half. We allowed a lot of dribble penetration and our rotations were slow. I thought we were able to make a run at the end of the first half and carry that over into the second half. The defense got a little better too.”
The Cardinals were able to hold off any Warrior comeback as they stretched their lead 14 points late in the second half.
Turnovers played a role in the Cardinals holding off the Warriors. Alex forced Brainerd into 16 turnovers while only turning it over four times themselves.
“I thought our defense was better in the second half and we got some stops when we needed to,” Witt said.
Schoeck added: “When you get down, the instinct is to kind of press a little bit and make the home run play. We were guilty of that and it turned into some turnovers. We just have to find the open man, trust each other and make the routine play.”
All five starters for the Alexandria Cardinals scored in double figures. Talan Witt put in 18 points, including 13 second-half points. Mason Witt and Dawson Roderick each tallied 12 points and Chase Thompson registered 11 points for Alex.
It was the Cardinals’ first game of the season. Brainerd falls to 1-2 and hosts another Central Lakes Conference opponent in Willmar Tuesday, Dec. 12.
“This was a good game and a test for us that we are going to learn from,” Schoeck said. “It’ll be nice to get in the gym and iron out some wrinkles. Just get better day in and day out.”
Mason Witt 12, Grayson Grove 33, Chase Thompson 11, Talan Witt 18, Evan Moore 3, Dawson Roderick 12.
Luke Diem 19, Eli Hoelz 13, Eli Tautges 3, Jake Merseth 9, Korde Roseman 19, Brady Rushin 3, Garrett Gilbert 16.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
Alexandria 89, Warriors 80
Key: All five starters finished in double figures for the Alexandria Cardinals in their win over the Warriors.
Conference: Brd 0-1, Alex 1-0.
Overall: Brd 2-1, Alex 1-0.
Next: Brainerd hosts Willmar 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12.