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Bemidji hangs with Prowlers but can't close it out

James Hendricks puts up an easy two in the first half of Tuesday night’s basketball game against Thief River Falls. Hendricks finished the game with 14 points in Bemidji’s 82-69 loss. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Bemdiji’s new run-and-gun offense has the potential to wreak havoc on opposing defenses that aren’t prepared to get up and down the court.

The Lumberjacks displayed their offensive prowess Tuesday night, draining 10 3-pointers against Thief River Falls.

But as the Jacks also displayed Tuesday, that offense is still a work-in-progress – and it needs a good defense to compliment it.

Bemidji stayed close with Thief River Falls all night, but the Prowlers pulled away with three minutes to go and beat the Lumberjacks 82-69.

“It all comes back to defense,” BHS head coach Dan Ninham said. “They put up 82 points on us. The team that makes the defensive plays is going to win, and we didn’t do that down the stretch tonight.”

The Lumberjacks (0-11) went toe-to-toe with the Prowlers (8-3) all night, but it appeared as if the visitors would pull away earlier than expected when they went on a 15-8 run midway through the second half.

Down 66-58 with just over six minutes to play, the Lumberjacks staged an impressive comeback that featured a basket each from Josh Misco and Billy Baumgardner followed by a big 3-pointer from Joe Strong.

That cut the Prowlers’ lead to 68-65 with 3:23 to go, and it looked like the Lumberjacks had the momentum to keep it close until the end.

That didn’t happen. The Prowlers were patient with the ball, working it inside for high percentage shots. Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks picked the wrong time to start missing outside shots.

BHS missed four straight 3-pointer attempts in the final three minutes, which allowed the Prowlers to pull away with the victory.

“Our shots just didn’t go in like they needed to late in the game,” Ninham said. “I thought overall we shot pretty well but we have to make those in late-game situations.”

Richard Seado led the Lumberjacks with 20 points, including three 3-pointers, and scored 14 of his points in the second half to help give BHS a chance.

The teams had played a see-saw first half that featured eight lead changes and four ties.

Bemidji’s James Hendricks was on fire early, draining four threes and scoring all 14 of his points in the first half.

But the Lumberjacks also turned the ball over 13 times in the first half – as opposed to just five in the second half – which contributed to their ability to pull away from the Prowlers.

It didn’t help that the Jacks committed 23 team fouls compared to the Prowlers’ eight. That allowed Thief River Falls to shoot 30 foul shots on the night.

Jacob Leir, Thief’s leading scorer, took advantage. He scored 22 points and went 12-for-12 from the line.

“Cutting back turnovers and rebounding better will be critical,” Ninham said. “The guys competed hard tonight, but we need to keep working.”

BHS returns to the court at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Duluth Denfeld in a battle of teams looking for their first wins. The Hunters are 0-10 after falling to Cambridge-Isanti Tuesday afternoon.

Thief River Falls 82, Bemidji 69

Thief River Falls (82) – Leir 4 12-12 22; Onkka 2 0-0 4; Johnson 6 1-2 13; Panek 2 1-2 5; Hoffard 2 1-6 5; Osborne 4 4-5 12; Hutton 3 1-1 9; Joppru 5 2-2 12. Totals 28 22-30 82.

Bemidji (69) – Baumgardner 4 0-0 8; McNallan 0 0-2 0; Strong 3 0-0 9; Seado 7 3-5 20; Hendricks 5 0-0 14; Misco 4 0-2 8; 5 0-0 10. Totals 28 3-9 69.

3-point goals – Thief River Falls 3, Bemidji 10; Fouls – Thief River Falls 8, Bemidji 23. Fouled Out – Baumgardner.

Halftime Score – Thief River Falls 37, Bemidji 34.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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