The Bemidji High girls basketball team faces its final major test of the regular season tonight when it heads east to Grand Rapids to battle the Thunderhawks.
It will be the second meeting of the year between the pair. Grand Rapids stunned Bemidji in the first meeting here, handing Bemidji its first loss 66-54.
The Hawks have gone on to post an 18-5 record, four of the losses to Twin Cities teams, Wayzata, Hopkins, Burnsville and St, Paul Central. The fifth was to Class A's top ranked team, Barnum .
They have not lost since, wining their last six including victories over Brainerd and Hibbing.
Bemidji plans a far more aggressive performance tonight, knowing there will be no more blowouts starting next week when tournament play begins. Bemidji will open at home Tuesday, probably against St. Cloud Tech.
Bemidji did not meet the Tigers this winter but has gone 7-1 against CLC opponents, bowing only at St. Cloud Apollo.
The Rapids dominated the first meeting, taking an early lead and building a 23 point cushion with five minutes to play. Bemidji rallied to make the game more respectable down the stretch but never came close to regaining the lead.
Two five point runs late in the first half established a 32-23 Rapids lead at the half and Bemidji never recovered.
Sophomore Kelly Niles came off the bench to pace the win with15. Brynn Joki added 11 and Jenna Gilson nine.
Kayla Hirt's 14 was Bemidji's best but matched her low point of the year reached three times,.
She has topped 20 on 18 occasions and has gone over 30 six times, hitting 35 twice.
She could reach two milestones tonight, going into the game needing 16 points to reach 600 points this year and 20 to reach the 1,000 point mark in her career. And that career has two more years to go before she joins the Gophers for the 2112 season.
Bemidji had a tough battle at home Tuesday, overcoming a seven point halftime deficit to beat Detroit Lakes 61-47.
Bemidji turned up the defense in the second half to limit the Lakers to 16 points, a primary goal it has striven for in every game this year.
Eight different players scored and Coach Rick Kehoe was able to get 15 players into the game before it ended including a trio of JV players elevated to the varsity for their first game.
Hirt topped 20 for the eighth straight game and also cleaned 12 rebounds, one of her primary goals this season.
Megan Larson and Paige Jensen will complete the baseline trio with Meg Claypool and Abby Hendricks on the perimeter.
Off the bench first will come Ashley Hirt, Erika Weimann, Kelsey Heisler and Megan Huseby.
The B Team takes a 15-9 mark to its final game while the freshmen try to end an unbeaten year at 19-0. Both won blowout decisions here in the first games.