By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
Milaca senior guard Brandon Kiel admits that as he was closing in on the record, it was weighing a bit on his mind.
The “record” was the Milaca High School career basketball scoring mark of 1,380 points held by 1992 graduate Jason Johnson.
“At the end of last season I knew I had a good chance at the record,” said Kiel, who played on the varsity as an eighth-grader and moved into the starting lineup as a ninth-grader. “At the beginning of this season the record was on my mind but then I didn’t think too much about it until I got really close. Then I was thinking about it. I wasn’t nervous but I did press a little bit.”
Kiel broke Johnson’s mark when he scored 35 points at Rockford Monday, Jan. 9. Those points pushed his total to 1,406.
He added 22 points against Foley Friday night at Milaca and went into this week with 1,428 points.
“It feels great to have the record,” said Kiel. “Especially because Milaca has had so many great players.”
Kiel and Johnson are two of the four Milaca boys who have scored over 1,000 points. Joe Hasz (1999) scored 1,194 points and Cory Ploeger (1987) was the first to hit 1,000, finishing with 1,071.
Maggie Doty (2007) leads Milaca’s girls players with 1,228, followed by Lindsey Westphal (2009) at 1,133, Jen Ahlberg (2001) at 1,121 and Amy Rensenbrink (1986) at 1,086.
“What has made Brandon a good player is what he has done in the off season to get better,” said Dustin Naumann, who’s in his first season as boys head coach. “Deep down Brandon has a desire to win and succeed. He pushes himself to be the best and takes it as a challenge when other teams do things to stop him. He understands that he can’t do everything himself and puts in good effort to get his teammates involved.”
“The basketball staff saw that at an early age Brandon had great abilities,” said Dave Leom, who coached Kiel four seasons. “Brandon’s strength has always been to improve his game and make himself better.”
Kiel’s points have come from an array of short and long range jump shots, drive to the basket and rebounds.
And, many of his points have been scored when he was being double-teamed.
“I like driving and when I do I’m looking to get fouled,” said Kiel, who made 13 free throws in a row against Pine City when he was a ninth-grader. “I’m comfortable at the free-throw line.
“I try to get my teammates involved and give them a chance to have a good game. The more we can play as a team the better chance we have to do well.”
Milaca lost at Rockford 63-57 and at home against Foley 46-42.
“That was disappointing,” said Kiel. “But, I think we can finish the season strong.”
Rockford led 41-25 at halftime before the Wolves rallied with a 32-22 edge in the second half.
The Wolves led Foley 25-21 at halftime before the Falcons rallied to notch their first win of the season.
Milaca, 0-4 in Granite Ridge Conference play and 2-8 overall, hosts Mora (1-4, 3-8) tonight, Jan. 20 at 7:30. The Wolves travel to St. Cloud Cathedral (3-1, 8-3) Tuesday, Jan. 24, at7:30.