Early in Tuesday's overtime against Grand Rapids Bemidji High School boys basketball senior captain Ryan Rude drove the lane and forced the fifth foul on Thunderhawks forward Zac Skelly.
Rude made one of the free throws to give the Lumberjacks a 54-51 lead. After the visitors missed a shot Rude and Carey Woods raced down court, worked a perfect give-and-go and capped the play with Rude's fast-break lay-up.
"We play together very well," Rude said of the 2011 Lumberjacks. "Our strength is our athleticism and our ability to create things on both ends of the court."
Rude has been creating things for the varsity since ninth grade and his contributions are among the reasons why BHS defeated Grand Rapids and will take a 13-1 record into tonight's game at Cloquet.
"Ryan's been a member of the varsity program since ninth grade," said Bemidji coach Jeff Brown. "Ryan is a two-year captain and he has earned the respect of the kids through his hard work. He has proven himself to his teammates and because of that they know that they can go to him with any issue."
Those who have watched BHS basketball this winter have come to appreciate the up-tempo and constant-hustle style that the Lumberjacks employ. Maintaining that pace for 36 minutes can be physically draining but Rude and his teammates wouldn't have it any other way.
"We've been coached well," Rude said. "The coaches always set up good game plans and stress hard work. It is a 36-minute game and you're job is to go all out for all 36 minutes."
Playing a full game is not a problem for Rude and anyone who shares court time with him is forced to adopt that same philosophy.
"My job on this team is to attack but I'm always looking to get an assist and set up a good flow that gets everyone involved," Rude said. "We play an up-tempo style. We like to play that way and we're good at it. It suits our team's strengths."
As a freshman Rude scored 37 points and the next year he blossomed into a scoring threat as evidenced by his 349 points as a sophomore.
A year ago Rude scored 429 and so far this winter he has contributed 177.
Rude needs eight points to reach 1,000 and that milestone could be attained tonight at Cloquet.
"Since I was a little kid I loved playing basketball," Rude said. "Scoring 1,000 points isn't anything that I set as a goal. It is just something that came along. I don't feel any pressure to get the 1,000th point. If it happens, it happens.
"We have bigger things on our mind such as winning the section championship," the senior added.
Entering this week ranked No. 4 in the state Class 3A poll the Lumberjacks have set themselves in a position to challenge for a state berth but Rude said Bemidji currently is far from being a state contender.
"We have the ability to win the section but we still have much to improve upon," he said. "There are little things that we need to fix. At this point we're not ready to win a section title but were are moving in that direction."
Improvement on the court is easier when the players get along and enjoy working as a unit. And Rude said the Lumberjacks are doing just that.
"We have our on and our off days but this team definitely knows how to have fun," he said. "You have to have fun when you play this game. That's how you learned to play basketball as a little kid and it doesn't change at this level."
"We preach playing hard and having fun," Brown said. "Ryan loves the game of basketball and always has. You can tell that by watching him and by coaching him.
"I'm going to miss him next year."