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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lumberjacks down the Hounds 69-35

Bemidji High School senior Klaryssa Whelan (35) scores in the first half against Duluth East on Thursday at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Bemidji High School senior Kennedy Mills (23) passes the ball in Thursday's game against Duluth East at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Following a week of three tough opponents, the Bemidji High School girls basketball team brought the same level of play into Thursday’s game against Duluth East and came out on top 69-35 at BHS.

“We wanted to take the aggressive nature that we had to play with the three very good teams that we played last week, and we wanted to translate that against a team that maybe wasn’t quite as strong as the other teams,” Jacks head coach Steve Schreiber said.

“We’ve had a tendency to play down to our competition and play up to our competition. I thought the girls did a great job tonight of playing at our level, not at the level of our competition.”

A three-pointer from Macy Hermanson gave the Greyhounds (2-18) a 5-4 lead in the early going, but the Lumberjacks (7-13) answered with seven straight – highlighted by a Mackenzie Nicklason three-point play – and didn’t look back. Ten minutes, 15 seconds in, Kennedy Mills drained a three for their first 10-point lead, 19-9.

From that point to the intermission, BHS went 13-for-14 from the line to take a 42-22 lead at the break.

Bemidji senior Klaryssa Whelan netted 12 points over the first 18 minutes, while Nicklason had nine, including a 7-for-9 effort from the line.

The Lumberjacks opened the the second half with an 11-2 run, including a pair of inside makes from Katie Alto, and they cruised from there through the final 14 minutes to their 69-35 win.

“(We were) just really aggressive,” said Schreiber. “We didn’t play a perfect game by any means, but we played an aggressive game and we played a team game tonight, and I think that’s why we ended up playing as well as we did.”

Whelan and Nicklason split the team lead with 13 points each on the night, while Alto posted 12 and Lindsey Hildenbrand, 10.

Scheduling games against Grand Rapids, Hopkins and Alexandria last week was meant to be a good test for a healthy Bemidji squad to prepare for the final stretch, Schreiber said. But heading into it with a 6-10 record, he changed their outlook.

“We knew we had a super tough stretch, and I kind of designed it that way with the thought that we were going to have our injured players not injured. So we thought we’d be able to hang out with those teams,” Schreiber said. “As soon as we had those injuries happen, we looked at this week as a toughness week, and then we looked at the weeks afterwards as games that, if we could translate that toughness, we feel like we can play with everybody the rest of the year. It’s just a matter of not getting down because we lost, but realizing that we can take positives away even in losses against very good teams.”

Starting with a fun day of practice this afternoon, the Jacks have a full week without a game before heading on the road to play Detroit Lakes – a team they topped 77-55 in December – at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9. They’ll use the time off as an opportunity to tune up on what they’ve worked on all year.

“It’s a long season, and we’re getting toward the end of it,” Schreiber said. “Our spirits are still high. (We were on a) five-game losing streak, and you wouldn’t have known it by the way the girls were acting in practice. Next week, I’m not throwing anything new at them. We’re going to fine-tune stuff until I feel like it’s the best that we can possibly get it.”

Bemidji 69, Duluth East 35

BHS 42 27 -- 69

DE 22 13 -- 35

Bemidji scoring -- Nicklason 13, Whelan 13, Alto 12, Hildenbrand 10, Mills 8, Cermak 5, Beard 4, Matheney 2, Flatness 2

Duluth East scoring -- Guenther 13, Hermanson 8, Velander 8, Callaway 2, Weiland 2, Ostazeski.