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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Rookie redemption: Appicelli, Beavers rally for 63-62 stunner

Mia Appicelli (15) passes the basketball in the first half against Mayville State on Saturday at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
BSU freshman Sydney Zerr (20) looks for a teammate to pass to in Saturday's game against Mayville State at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Mia Appicelli’s collegiate career didn’t start the way she wanted it to. Five first-half turnovers and a daunting deficit for the Bemidji State women’s basketball team was a less than ideal beginning in her debut. But BSU head coach Chelsea DeVille never wavered in her freshman.

“I told her when she came off the bench in the first half… She’s just trying to be too flashy with it,’” DeVille said of Appicelli's forced no-look passes. “But I trust her because I still think she’s our best bet to break a team that gives us a lot of pressure.”

With the game up for grabs in the final seconds, Appicelli redeemed herself through the game-winning free throws to help the Beavers flip an all-but-decided loss into a 63-62 win against Mayville State at the BSU Gymnasium on Saturday.

“I was just making sure that I was looking for the open players,” Appicelli said of her turnover-free second half. “I feel like, without me turning it over, we got a lot more open shots and a lot more availability around the court.”

But the late heroics came in improbable fashion with how the first three quarters played out. The Comets (5-2) applied a suffocating full-court press that forced 14 Beaver turnovers by halftime and 20 by the end of three.

Even when Bemidji State (1-1) seemed to find a flow, Mayville State still dictated the game. The Comets rattled off 12 in a row late in the second, stopping a 7-0 Beaver run for 28-22 edge at the break.

“It seemed like, if we got a stop, we definitely didn’t score on the other end. And vice versa, when we scored, we didn’t get a stop,” DeVille said. “We were looking at each other wondering, ‘What the heck? Who’s gonna step up?’”

The question hung in the air throughout the third quarter as Mayville State expanded its lead to 47-34 a minute into the fourth. But then the Beavers finally found their spark.

Appicelli drained a corner three for her first points of the night with 6 minutes, 25 seconds to play. Then after Brooklyn Bachmann sunk two free throws, Sydney Arrington scored inside twice -- including an and-one -- making for a 10-0 run.

“Definitely our posts started powering up and getting a lot great shots,” Appicelli said. “Syd (Arrington) kept making a lot of layups, and she was doing a great job.”

The newfound energy carried BSU into a 56-55 lead three minutes later when Bachmann went coast-to-coast, converting a steal into a layup. Sydney Gangl responded with a three as Mayville State regained the lead, 58-56, with under two minutes to play.

But then Appicelli came up clutch.

With 1:35 remaining -- and plenty of time on the shot clock -- she pulled the trigger from way downtown and hit nothing but net. BSU took a three-point edge after Bachmann made two more free throws, and then Joelle Ertl tied it at 61-all with just over 30 seconds remaining to set the stage for the freshman.

A foul on the other end sent Appicelli to the charity stripe, and the rookie sunk both, atoning for her early-game woes with the game winner.

“I had four freshmen and a sophomore out there a lot at the end of the game. But that’s who I trust. They have the talent and skill,” DeVille said. “They had it going for us where I felt most comfortable on this particular night. We’ll go with which kids brought a spark.”

After a final stop on the defensive end, Bemidji State incredibly came out on top for the 63-62 win.

“I’m really proud of us, because they’re a really great team. They have really good defense that gave us a lot of pressure,” Appicelli said. “I’m really proud that we could overcome it and come back.”

Bachmann finished with a game-high 21, while Arrington added 15. Senske and Appicelli each added eight points to go along with nine and eight rebounds, respectively. 34 BSU points came in the first 31 minutes, while 29 came in the final nine.

“They don’t care how ugly it was,” DeVille said. “They don’t care how they played, who was on the court. As a team, we’re so excited to be walking away with a W.”

The Beavers will head a mile high to close out nonconference play, starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 24, against the host Roadrunners at the Metro State Thanksgiving Classic in Denver.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, he is currently studying Creative and Professional Writing at Bemidji State. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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