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1,000 and counting: After milestone point, Rongstad is coming on strong at the right time for Bemidji State

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BEMIDJI – It’s fitting that a 3-pointer gave Lance Rongstad his 1,000th career point.

The Bemidji State senior, who is shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in the team’s part five games, nailed one from the top of the key with 15 minutes to go in BSU’s game last Friday against Winona State to become just the 16th player in Beavers history to reach such a milestone.

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“It feels good, especially watching my old teammates do it,” Rongstad said, referring to Seth Haake and James Ellisor.

Ellisor accomplished the feat last season, while Haake reached it in 2010.

“It’s one of those things that realistically doesn’t mean a whole lot but it’s nice to kind of leave your name in a book somewhere and hope that someday someone will look down and remember you. I feel fortunate to be part of the 15 other guys that are in there.”

Rongstad’s milestone may not signify much in the long run, but it was nice to do it in Winona, just a quick 50 minute drive from his hometown of Eleva, Wis.

“I’m glad I got it there, just because of the history and success we’ve had against (Winona State) in the past,” Rongstad said, referring to the rivalry that has developed between the Warriors and Beavers as of late. “And it was nice to do it in front of the home crowd.”

Not only is Rongstad’s milestone significant for the BSU record books, but it’s also a sign that the senior has emerged as a go-to guy for the Beavers.

BSU hosts Minnesota State-Moorhead and Northern State in key Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games this weekend.

The Beavers (8-8, 6-4 NSIC) lost to both teams on the road at the beginning of January – 64-61 against Northern State and 82-48 against MSU-Moorhead.

The Beavers hope Rongstad can be a spark this weekend. He’s averaging over 20 points per game in the past four after struggling to find his scoring touch midseason.

“He’s elevated his game throughout the year,” said first-year BSU head coach Mike Boschee. “He’s a smart kid, and finds his way quickly in everything that we’re doing. He played early on and he just seems to get better.”

Rongstad is also the quarterback on BSU’s football team, so he missed the first few weeks of basketball practice. Boschee didn’t know what he’d be getting early on. As it turns out, Rongstad’s transition was pretty seamless.

“He’s an amazing athlete,” said center Mason Walters, who has been playing with Rongstad for four years.

“Coming straight from football and going right to basketball, it’s incredible that he can do it. He just flipped a switch and was playing right away. I don’t even have words for it.”

Boschee said when he saw what Rongstad could do on the court, his responsibilities increased.

“We’ve asked him to do more in the past couple weeks and he’s elevated his game,” Boschee said. “It’s not easy scoring 20 points per game in the conference, but he’s right around that mark in the last four, five games.”

Rongstad was the sparkplug in BSU’s 69-67 win over Augustana two weeks ago, putting the Beavers ahead in the final two minutes with a 3-pointer.

Since then, he’s been on a tear. In BSU’s next game he scored a team high 21 points and went 5-for-8 shooting in a 64-62 loss to Wayne State. He’s led the team in scoring in each of BSU’s last four games.

“He caught fire at the right time,” Walters said. “It was perfect timing for us to give him the ball more because he’s feeling it lately.”

Rongstad’s hot hand from outside, along with Walters’ inside prowess and Dremaine Crockrell’s scoring and playmaking abilities, are giving the Beavers the ability to win games. All three are averaging double figures scoring, as is junior Zach Noreen.

The problem is that, at least lately, the Beavers haven’t been finishing games out. They’ve lost four games this year but 10 or fewer points. Against Upper Iowa Saturday the margin was 81-67 but the Beavers fell apart late in the second half after leading at halftime.

“It’s just one or two things you can always point out at the end of the games,” Rongstad said. “We’re doing things well; we’re just not doing the little things consistently throughout games, the things that cost you four to six points throughout the course of the game.

“Right now we’ve had four five games decided by four points or less and we’re losing those games because we’re giving those free points in the first half of the game.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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