BEMIDJI – The first two possessions of Bemidji’s home opener against Thief River Falls revealed much about how the game might play out.
The Lumberjacks won the opening tip-off, but Thief River Falls freshman forward Meleah Biermaier stole the ball shortly after, ran the length of the floor and scored an easy lay-up to give the Prowlers their first lead.
Bemidji head coach Rick Kehoe called timeout immediately to talk things over with his team.
But the Lumberjacks couldn’t get the ball all the way down the court before referees called travelling.
The Prowlers’ Brooke Yaggie hit a 3-pointer on their next possession.
It was that kind of night for the Lumberjacks, who struggled to shoot – and hold onto – the ball and lost their home opener 65-32 Tuesday night at BHS.
Kehoe said the Lumberjacks (0-2) are still struggling to read defenses.
“What we’re struggling with in perimeter play is, we’re not recognizing their defense,” Kehoe said. “So we’re coming down the floor and we’re just not noticing that our last trip down it may have been a zone, but now they’re in man, and we’re not recognizing it on our own.”
That led to numerous Lumberjack turnovers in the early going. Bemidji coughed up the ball on its first four possessions downcourt, and the Jacks didn’t attempt a field goal until about to-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Jess Yost missed the layup and the Prowlers (4-0) got the rebound and scored on the other end.
BHS didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 14:55 mark of the first half. Jessa Lusby hit one of two foul shots to make it 7-1 TRF.
The Jacks just couldn’t get shots to fall, while the Prowlers hit anything they wanted.
“The biggest thing was they came out and didn’t miss,” Kehoe said. “I’ll be surprised if they didn’t shoot 70 percent. And it wasn’t just layups. They were hitting everything. The outside shots they were hitting weren’t gimmes… they were 15-18 foot jump shots.”
TRF shot out to a 15-2 lead before the Jacks made their first field goal – an Alexa Greendahl layup that rattled in as she drew a foul. He foul shot made it 15-5 with 11:23 to go in the half, but that was as close as the Lumberjacks got.
The Prowlers went on a 27-7 run to end the first half and go into a locker room with a 44-13 lead.
Bemidji’s early struggles could partially be attributed to the Prowlers’ shutting down Yost in the first half. The 6-foot-2 senior was limited to just two first-half points.
“Every team knows Jess is our go-to player,” Kehoe said.
“So if they stop Jess, we’ll struggle. In the first half there was nothing for her. It wasn’t her fault; we just weren’t getting shots for her.”
Yost finished with a team-high 15 points – the only Lumberjack in double figures. Lusby was the second-leading scorer for BHS, scoring seven points.
The teams played most of the second half with a running clock, and as a result the Lumberjacks were able to slow down the Prowlers and their hot-shooting tandem of Yaggie and Biermaier.
Yaggie, a junior guard, scored a game-high 20 points while Biermaier scored 16. Sophomore center Madison Brekke added 14.
“There wasn’t one person we could take away,” Kehoe said. “They had a lot of good players, a lot of good movement. And that comes with good ball handling, and we’re just not there yet.”
The Lumberjacks travel to Grand Rapids Thursday when they’ll look to get in the win column for the first time this season.
“It’s nothing that we can’t fix at this point,” Kehoe said. “We’re a young team, playing inexperienced; we just have to play up to the speed of the game. They just have to believe in themselves. I think we will get better.”
THIEF RIVER FALLS (65) – Amirayan 1 0-0 2; Yaggie 8 1-1 2-; Amundson 1 0-0 2; Biermaier 8 0-0 16; Tadych 2 0-0 4; Brekke 7 0-0 14; Lee 3 1-1 7. Totals 30 2-2 65,
BEMIDJI (32) – Lusby 1 5-6 7; Myhra 0 0-3 0; Greendahl 1 1-1 3; Olson 2 0-0 4; Yost 6 3-5 15; Grohovd 1 0-0 2; Palmer 0 1-2 1; Steever 0 0-2 0. Totals 11 10-19 32.
3-point goals – Thief River Falls 3, Bemidji 0; Personal Fouls – Thief River Falls 17, Bemidji 8.
Halftime Score – Thief River Falls 44, Bemidji 13