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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Beavers survive Winona State comeback to advance to conference semifinals

Bemidji State’s Jason Edwards reacts after the Beavers scored during a NSIC Tournament quarterfinal game against Winona State Saturday in Winona. Edwards’ big defensive play in the final seconds helped the Beavers win 74-72. Joe Ahlquist | Winona Daily News1 / 2
Bemidji State’s Mason Walters (23) goes up for a shot while Winona State’s Taylor Cameron (30) during a NSIC Tour-nament quarterfinal game Saturday at McCown Gymnasium in Winona, Minn. Joe Ahlquist | Winona Daily News 2 / 2

WINONA, Minn. — Bemidji State held off a furious last-second flurry by Winona State and claimed a 74-72 victory in the quarterfinals of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference/Sanford Health men’s basketball tournament Saturday night.

Defensive plays by Jason Edwards and Lance Rongstad in the final 10 seconds prevented the Warriors from tying the game. Edwards tied up All-American center Clayton Vette with 10 seconds left, and Rongstad helped thwart Xavier Humphrey’s shot just ahead of the buzzer.

The Beavers (17-11) move on to the tournament semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Rochester. They will meet Upper Iowa, which shocked St. Cloud State 73-55 Saturday. Minnesota State Mankato will face Augustana in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

“We made just enough plays to get the victory,” Bemidji State first-year head coach Mike Boschee told the Beaver Radio Network after the game. “We showed a lot of heart. This was just a great overall effort from our guys.”

Senior forward Mason Walters led the Beavers with 21 points and 18 rebounds. Junior forward Zach Noreen added 18 points, including a key 3-pointer down the stretch, and senior guard Dermaine Crockrell contributed 14 points.

“We had to fight for every point we got,” Walters told the Beaver Radio Network. “Our experience really helps us out in these close ones. We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Bemidji State got off to a hot start, with Noreen pouring in 10 quick points to help build a 13-8 lead. The Warriors bounced back and eventually took a 26-23 advantage before the Beavers regained command.

A 15-8 run gave the visitors their largest lead of the first half at 41-31 with 2:16 remaining, and the Beavers took a 46-36 edge to the locker room.

Vette poured in 16 first-half points, but went out with an injury early in the second half. The Warriors stayed in the game until their star returned several minutes later.

Winona led 68-67 before the Beavers connected on baskets by Maxie Rosenbloom and Crockrell to take a 71-68 lead with 2:15 remaining.

Humphrey’s two free throws made it 71-70. But a 3-pointer by Noreen at the 1:26 mark put BSU ahead 74-70. It was Noreen’s fourth 3-pointer of the night.

Humphrey went back to the line and missed the front end of a bonus, but the Beavers turned the ball over with a half minute to go.

Taylor Cameron was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to bring the Warriors within 74-72.

Rongstad was fouled with 15 seconds left, but the senior missed the front end of a bonus and Winona had one last chance.

Winona State worked the ball inside to Vette, but Edwards tied up the All-American. The arrow gave the ball back to the Warriors. Humphrey’s last-second shot fell away and the Beavers earned their trip to Rochester.

BEMIDJI STATE (74): Crockrell 4-12 4-6 14, Rongstad 1-4 2-3 5, Noreen 7-10 0-0 18, Edwards 2-12 0-0 5, Walters 8-17 4-5 21, Rosenbloom 3-4 0-0 6, Farrington 1-1 0-0 2, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Schalow 0-1 3-3 3. Totals: 26-62 13-17 74.

WINONA STATE (72): Taylor 2-6 1-3 5, Johnson 2-8 0-0 5, Humphrey 2-6 4-7 9, Cameron 4-13 3-5 13, Vette 8-12 7-8 24, Masberg 0-1 0-0 0, Culver 4-8 0-0 11, Blacklock 2-5 0-2 5, Fischer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 24-60 15-25 72.

Halftime: BSU 43, WSU 36.