My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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With a 25-5 record, a spot in the Section 5-1A Semifinals and a Northwoods Conference title, the Pine River-Backus Tigers enjoyed a successful season. Because of that the Tigers landed third players on this year's Brainerd Dispatch All-Area team. Pequot Lakes senior Olivia Lane is this year's Dispatch Player of the Year and two of her opponents, the Aitkin Gobblers and Crosby-Ironton Rangers, each landed two players on this year's squad. Players for the all-area team are nominated by their coaches and then selected by the Dispatch Sports Department
Olivia Lane is the first girls basketball player to repeat as Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year since Emily Lueck was a back-to-back winner 2010 and 2011. It's fitting since Lane broke all of Lueck's scoring records at Pequot Lakes and every other scoring record the program has. Lane became the school's all-time scoring leader in a 70-37 victory over Mora Feb. 2. Lane broke Lueck's record of 2,174 career points. Needing six points, Lane tallied 30. She finished her career with 2,434 points.
DULUTH—One big basket, that's all they needed. Instead the big shot went to top-seeded Esko, which was just 1-of-5 from 3-point in the second half, but that one make was the backbreaker that led to Esko beating the Pequot Lakes Patriots 58-45 Thursday, March 14, in the Section 7-2A Championship at the University of Minnesota, Duluth's Romano Gymnasium.
The No. 3-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots fell to the No. 1-seeded Esko Eskomos 58-45 Thursday, March 14, in the Section 7-2A Championship at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The Patriots were led by Jordan Schommer's 19 points and Sean Ryan's 11. Pequot finishes the season 23-7. Esko was led by Camden Berger's 20 points. Payton Wefel's 12 and Corey Kauma's 10. The Eskomos advance to the Class 2A State Tournament Wednesday, March 20, at either Target Center or Williams Arena depending on the seeding. Game times are either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m.
DULUTH—As his name might suggest, Tyler Manley was the man Tuesday, March 12. Despite fighting a height disadvantage, Pequot Lakes' 6-foot-1 senior post scored a game-high 25 points with all but five coming in the paint to send the No. 3-seeded Patriots to their first section final since 2007 with a 71-56 victory over the Greenway Raiders in the Section 7-2A semifinals. Manley was not only spectacular but consistent as he tallied 14 points in the first half and 11 in the second. He was also efficient hitting 10-of-12 from the field and 5-of-8 from the line.
CROSBY—Big players show up in big spots and Monday, March 11, Jordan Schommer added his name to that list. The 6-foot senior guard did what few others have ever been able to do—he shot the Crosby-Ironton Rangers out of their trademark zone defense and then led the No. 3-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots to a 72-60 Section 7-2A Quarterfinals victory over No. 2 C-I. Schommer, who's been on a scoring spree, did it with the 3 and with dribble penetration causing fits for the Rangers' defense.
Pequot built a 30-21 halftime edge thanks to an 11-3 run to close out the opening half. Schommer scored nine of those points in that span with Tyler Manley, who finished with 10, added two free throws.
Craig Orlando registered three pins in less than a minute, but the Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie Raiders couldn't build on it as they finished sixth in the Class 1A Team Tournament Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Quinn Kern also won three matches at 120 pounds and David Revering was 2-0 at 106 pounds for the Raiders, who fell to Goodhue 38-23 in the consolation championship.
They were nicknamed Murderers' Row by a Brainerd parent and that's exactly what they have been to opposing teams during the regular season. With a combined 145-37 record, seniors Kyle Patnode, Braden Kramer, Denny Busbey and Brad Patnode will put their winning ways up to the task Friday, March 1, in the Class 2A State Individual Wrestling Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Brainerd's day will begin at 132 pounds and senior Denny Busbey going up against the top-seeded and top-ranked Trayton Anderson of Northfield.
Alyssa Semmler doesn't fit the mold of most high school athletes. She knows it. She's accepted it. She's even embraced it and it's helped her become a key player for the Pine River-Backus Tigers girls basketball team. Her coach, Randy Schwegel, who has been trying to figure out Semmler for five seasons, agrees.