BEMIDJI – When Bemidji High School girls basketball coach Rick Kehoe addressed his team prior to the Feb. 1 game at East Grand Forks, he told the players that the Lumberjacks had a chance to run the table and win their final eight games.
When Kehoe made that statement the Jacks were 3-14 and seemed destined for a long winter.
Since that address, however, BHS has turned the corner and Tuesday night the Lumberjacks posted their fourth consecutive victory when they outplayed Moorhead 67-59 at the BHS gym.
Tuesday’s result reversed a 62-55 loss to the Spuds on Dec. 18 and brought smiles to the faces of the players, the coaches and the fans.
“Is this a different team than you saw play early in the season?” Kehoe said following Tuesday’s victory. “The difference between early in the year and now is that we’ve been through a losing streak and we learned some lessons. We are mentally tougher now and we are making good decisions on the court.
“We managed to sneak past East Grand Forks in overtime (68-64) to start this winning streak and when we dominated Brainerd 60-35 last week we proved to ourselves that we could be a good basketball team,” the coach continued. “Then we went to Alexandria Saturday and beat a team that probably will be the top seed in its section on their court (46-44). I think we can keep this up and win our final four games.”
Tuesday’s battle was fought on even terms most of the way. Moorhead claimed the first five points but BHS answered with a 13-4 run to forge a 13-9 advantage.
Jess Yost began the comeback with a 3-pointer from the top of the circle and had seven points during the run. Greta Steever added four points and Alexa Greendahl capped the spurt with a bucket from the paint.
The teams were knotted at 31-31 in the final minute but the Jacks opened a 33-31 halftime lead when Casey Palmer hit a pair of free throws with six seconds to play.
Steever and Dani Gronhovd had eight points at the break and Yost contributed seven. That balance was key to the halftime lead and key to the victory.
“Everybody’s game is getting better and everybody is contributing,” Kehoe said. “Suzy Myhra knocked home a big 3-pointer in the second half and Greta hit those important perimeter baskets in the first half that enabled us to relax and concentrate on playing defense.”
The outcome was up for grabs during the first nine minutes of the second stanza. During that stretch the game was tied three times and the lead exchanged hands on six occasions.
The final lead change came with nine minutes to play when Yost drained a 3-pointer from the right corner. That bucket gave BHS a 50-49 edge and sparked a 10-1 spurt that extended the margin to 59-51.
The Spuds drew no closer than 61-55 in the final minutes and Jessa Lusby’s fast-break bucket with 52 seconds to play regained a double-digit lead at 65-55 and cemented the victory.
Yost finished with 25 points, 12 of them coming from four 3-point buckets. Steever added 12 and Palmer and Gronhovd each contributed 10.
“The goal of every team is to play its best ball at the end of the season and we are heading in that direction,” Kehoe said. “If we keep playing like we are now we could run the table. And if we do that I can make an argument for a fifth seed in the section tournament, ahead of both Buffalo and Moorhead.
“And with a No. 5 seed who knows what could happen.”
BHS will try to extend its winning streak to five games Thursday when it visits Detroit Lakes.
Moorhead (59): Wixo 1, 0-0, 2; Tonn 8, 0-2, 21; Clark 1, 0-1, 3; Rahman 2, 0-0, 6; Stephenson 2, 1-2, 5; Uglem 8, 0-3, 16; Boyce 1, 0-0, 2; Groth 1, 2-2, 4. Totals: 24, 3-10, 59
Bemidji (67): Lusby 1, 2-4, 4; Myhra 1, 0-0, 3; Greendahl 1, 1-3, 3; Olson 0, 2-3, 2; Yost 8, 5-8, 25; Gronhovd 3, 3-6, 10; Palmer 0, 8-8, 10; Steever 6, 0-2, 12. Totals; 20, 21-34, 67
3-point FG: Moorhead 8, BHS 6 (Myhra 1, Yost 4, Gronhovd 1)
Fouls: Moorhead 26, BHS 13
Halftime: BHS 33, Moorhead 31