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Apple Valley puts Brainerd away late, advances to Class 4A semifinals

The unseeded Brainerd Warriors brought a huge contingent of fans to the Target Center for their Class 4A quarterfinal against top-ranked Apple Valley in search of an upset, and after 30 minutes of play the Warriors and their fans sensed their team had the Eagles on the ropes.

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Apple Valley and their large cheering section had other ideas.

After Brainerd tied the game at 56 on a bucket from Chris Bowman with 9:09 left, the Eagles showed the vocal crowd why they’re the #1 seed and the favorites to bring home their first state championship in school history. Both teams were held scoreless for the next three minutes, but then a three-pointer from Apple Valley’s Robert Tobroxen ignited a 15-3 run over the next three and a half minutes to lead the Eagles to a 81-67 victory.

Apple Valley, making their sixth state tournament appearance, had four different players in double figures, led by Tyus Jones and Dennis Austin with 19. Jones, a junior point guard who’s one of the top national recruits in the class of 2014, added seven assists and six steals, while 6’10” freshman Brock Bertram led the team with eight rebounds and three blocks. Valley outrebounded the Warriors 33-24 in the game, including a 10-5 edge on the offense glass. Brainerd, the champions of the Central Lakes Conference, was led by Marcus Comstock’s 17 points, with Chris Bowman adding 12.

Brainerd had the Target Center rocking in the first half, as they led for the majority of the first half and had an eight-point led just past the midway point during the first 18 minutes of play. Valley overtook the Warriors toward the end of the half, but a last-second three by Jack Sauer gave the Warriors a 36-34 lead at the break. The Eagles opened the second half on a 9-0 run to grab an advantage they’d hold for most of the rest of the contest; Brainerd fought back to eventually tie the game midway through the half, but the speed and strength of the Eagles was too much for the Warriors to overcome.

Apple Valley plays the winner of Eden Prairie and Woodbury in the first Class 4A semifinal Thursday evening at the Target Center. Brainerd, who was making their tenth appearance at state and their first since 1991, finishes their season with a 28-2 record.

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