The Bemidji High basketball team introduced itself to Twin Cities basketball Saturday night, rallying from a 16 point deficit to shade Burnsville 56-54 in the feature game of the Hopkins Tip Off Classic.
It lifted Bemidji to 3-0 on the year and was the first game for the Blaze.
Bemidji heads to Grand Rapids Thursday to face its top section 7-3A rival, a team it split with last season.
Saturday's contest matched a pair of Division I cagers.
Burnsville's Molly Duehn, headed to Northern Colorado, next fall, ended with 25.
But Bemidji's Kayla Hirt, a 2011 Minnesota Gopher, ended with 26 to earn Player of the Game honors.
Her three point play in the final minute widened a 52-51 lead and gave the winners the margin they needed.
For Duehn connected with her fifth trey of the night moments later before Kelsey Heisler drained the final point with17 seconds to go.
Hirt was the whole show in the first half as Burnsville spurted to a 22-6 lead at the start and was still ahead 34-21 at the break.
Bemidji was playing even off the boards and in turnovers but shooting poorly.
A seven-point run opened a 9-2 lead for the Blaze.
After Bemidji sliced the lead to 9-6, the Blaze rolled home 13 unanswered points including three straight treys by Duehn.
If there was a time to fold, this was it.
But Bemidji braced instead and outscored the Blaze 12-2 in the next four minutes to draw to within 24-18.
Unfortunately it was unable to keep up the barrage and Burnsville responded with a run of eight including Duehn's fourth trey to widen the gap to 32-18 and still lead by 13 at the break.
Duehn had 14 at this juncture. Hirt had 10 for Bemidji.
She took charge early in the second half. After a quick Blaze field goal, Hirt poured home four straight baskets to cut the lead to 36-29 and raise hopes of a comeback.
At 41-36, Hirt scored her 20th point on a layup and Maren Erpelding followed with a bucket to bring Bemidji within one.
After a Duehn field goal, Erika Weimann tied the game with her second trey of the half at 43-43.
With eight minutes remaining, scoring slowed appreciably on both sides.
Hirt gave Bemidji its first lead at 45-43 but the Blaze ran the next five, the final three on a Jessica Ranke trey, to take a 48-45 lead.
Then two free throws by Megan Huseby and one from Hirt tied the score again. Two Heisler free throws and Jess Yost's bucket sent Bemidji ahead to stay 52-48.
But Bemidji could not put the game away and a Duehn field goal and Jessica Watson free throw brought the losers within one again.
Hirt's three point play underneath provided just enough margin and Heisler's final charity toss ended the game.
Hirt was the only Bemidji player to reach double figures. Six other players contributed key points throughout the contest as the team balance begins to strengthen.
Watson followed Duehn with 10 for Burnsville, the only other player to reach double figures.
"Great comeback," said Coach Rick Kehoe. "When I called a time out when we were down 22-6, I told the girls we had plenty of time and could well win the game if we settled down and played our game."
"I don't think too many of the players believed me. But they did what I asked and proved to themselves they can do it."
He credited a switch from man to man to a zone defense with slowing down the quick Blaze and keeping them away from the basket on offense.
The intensity of the game probably showed best on defense with Bemidji forcing 26 turnovers and Burnsville creating 29 for Bemidji.
The taller Blaze held only a 26-23 lead off the boards with 6-4 Tori Dixon a force under the basket on defense.
BEMIDJI (56) Heisler 0 3-4 3 3; Hirt 10 4-6 2 26; Hendricks 3 0-1 2 6; Weimann 2 2-3 2 8; Huseby 1 3-5 1 5; Gangelhoff 1 0-3 2 1; Yost 2 0-0 0 4; Erpelding 1 0-1 0 2; Totals: 21 12-23 12 56
BURNSVILLE (54) Donchetz 1 3-4 4 5; Mulloy 0 0-0 0 0; Duehn 10 0-0 1 25; Moen 2 0-0 5 5; Watson 3 4-5 3 10; Dixon 2 0-0 1 4; Buck 0 0-0 2 0; Ranke 1 1-3 2 4; Youngman 0 0-0 0 0; Istas 0 0-0 2 0; Lowry 0 0-0 0 0; Dobbins 0 1-3 2 1;. Totals: 19 9-15 22 54
Three point field goals; Bemidji 2-Weimann 2; Burnsville 7 (Duehn 5, Moen, Ranke)
Halftime score; Burnsville 34, Bemidji 21
Rebounds; Burnsville 26, Bemidji 29
Turnovers; Burnsville 26, Bemidji 23