BEMIDJI – The eight consecutive losses to open the season have been forgotten as the Bemidji girls basketball team won for the third time in its last four games Saturday when the Lumberjacks outscored Cloquet 26-10 in the second half and coasted to a 53-37 victory.
Spearheading the effort was a tight man-to-man defense. Offensively Bemidji displayed a balanced attack that was led by Jessa Lusby’s 17 points and Dani Gronhovd’s 10-point contribution.
The transformation from a team that couldn’t find a win to one that is 3-1 in its last four games can be traced to the 55-54 victory against St. Peter at the holiday tournament.
“The St. Peter game was the turning point for us,” Lusby said. “It was a close game but it was one we weren’t going to lose. How we played in that game was a confidence booster for us and we’ve played like that ever since.”
Cloquet entered Saturday’s game with a 6-5 record but it was evident from the outset that Bemidji was the better team.
Midway through the first half the Lumberjacks opened a 16-7 lead when Dani Gronhovd scored on a fast break.
Cloquet rallied late in the first half to forge a 27-27 tie at the break but, behind six points by Lusby in the opening three minutes of the second stanza, BHS regained control at 35-29.
And Cloquet never challenged again. Many of Bemidji’s points were the result of a pressure defense that continually forced the visitors into a turnover or an ill-advised shot.
And once Bemidji had possession it quickly moved the ball into the offensive zone.
During Friday’s 46-40 win over Detroit Lakes the Jacks played a more deliberate brand of basketball and Lusby said the tactical change was dictated by the strengths and weaknesses of the different opponents.
“We definitely want to adjust to the teams that we are playing,” the senior guard said. “Adjusting our style is something we have tried to do all year.”
During the first eight games Bemidji was unable to make the adjustment. Now, however, the Jacks are taking control on both ends of the court.
“I think the difference between 0-8 and 3-1 is that we have come together as a team,” Lusby said. “We are no longer hanging our heads when something doesn’t go right. We are more experienced and we know when to take our shots.
“The change we’ve made was not physical. It was all mental,” Lusby continued. “And everybody can see that we are having more fun now.”
The new-look Lumberjacks will try to continue their winning ways Tuesday when they visit Thief River Falls.
Cloquet (37): Rathe 4, 0-1, 8; Kedrowski 1, 0-0, 2; Schmitz 1, 0-0, 2; Jensen 2, 6-8, 10; Bieri 1, 2-2, 4; Cofield 2, 0-0, 5; Warbalow 1, 0-00, 3; Erickson 1, 0-0, 3. Totals: 13, 8-11, 37
Bemidji (53): Lusby 6, 3-4, 17; Myhra 0, 0-0, 0; Greendahl 0, 1-2, 1; Olson 2, 4-4, 8; ost 3, 1-4, 7; Gronhovd 3, 4-4, 10; Palmer 1, 0-0, 2; Steever 3, 2-2, 8. Totals: 18, 14-19, 53
3-point FG: Cloquet 3, Bemidji 2 (Lusby 2)
Fouls: Cloquet 16, Bemidji 12
Halftime: Bemidji 27, Cloquet 27