After a bad performance Tuesday night against Central, the Brainerd basketball coaches challenged their players before their big District 6-AA matchup Friday night against rival Howard.
The Panthers got the message.
They jumped to a 26-point first-quarter lead and cruised Friday night to one of the biggest wins in the history of the rivalry, eventually defeating the Hustlin' Tigers 79-22 at Howard. Brainerd (6-1, 2-0) forced 33 turnovers -- 22 in the first 16 minutes, after which they led 50-14.
The Panthers did it with a balanced scoring attack, as Tyree Stubbs led them with 15 points. Ledarius Lee had 13 and Windell Graham added 11. Da'V Moore had eight, while DeAndre Bass, Kaylen Stewart and Orlando Moore had six each.
Moore and Marques Tipton, who had seven points, suffered minor injuries during the contest, but both should be able to go when the Panthers take on Austin-East tonight.
Tipton's injury came after he dunked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter.
"We expected this," he said. "We didn't play how we wanted to on Tuesday, and we used the fact that we didn't beat Howard last year to our advantage. We came out with a lot of energy and played hard the whole game."
Lee added nine rebounds, while Isaiah Shropshire had six assists and Stubbs had seven steals.
"I expected us to play hard, but I didn't expect this," Brainerd coach Levar Brown said. "Howard is a well-coached team -- they're the Hustlin' Tigers for a reason -- so no, I didn't expect this.
"We stressed effort and intensity before the game because we were all upset about Tuesday; that wasn't the effort we showcased the first five games. I thought we decided to play Brainerd basketball tonight."
Howard (1-2, 0-2), which has no seniors on the active roster, was led by Desmond Strickland's eight points and 11 rebounds. The Tigers shot 5-for-16 from the foul line.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.