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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Beavers survive against UMC

BEMIDJI -- With a seemingly insurmountable lead, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team sure had to hang on to defeat Minnesota Crookston 77-75 at the Sanford Center Tuesday night.

With a 48-25 second-half lead, the Beavers (5-10, 3-7 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) were cruising towards their second straight win. But a massive UMC comeback made it a game, taking late leads and even had a last-second shot for the win.

But when the Golden Eagle game-winning attempt fell short, BSU was finally able to do something for the first time since halftime -- exhale.

“It’s not easy to get rattled and then work yourself back out of it again,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “We played with a lot of composure early... Then we got rattled big time, but then we composed ourselves, which is a sign that we’re working in the right direction.”

After BSU scored the first six points of the second half, going ahead 48-25, the furious Golden Eagle comeback began.

Lucas Wendt broke an 8-0 UMC run with a three, but Minnesota Crookston was still able to extend it to a 14-3 spurt with 11 minutes to play. From there, the Golden Eagles scored nine of the next 11, capped off with two Jim Warmack free throws and a Connor Gamble corner three.

The strong push made it a 56-54 game with 9:47 to play. A few minutes later, later UMC tied it up at 65-65 on a Harrison Cleary layup with 5:29 to play.

After Christian Pekarek grabbed a loose ball and dished to Ben Best for a 69-67 advantage, Chase Knickerbocker answered with a three, pulling UMC ahead 70-69 -- UMC’s first lead since it was 2-0.

Shortly after, an alley-oop from Sahrif Black to Best put BSU up 73-72 with 1:36 to play, but it was soon tied again at 75 when Knickerbocker nailed another deep ball with just 38 seconds left.

Jai’Vionne Green followed by connecting both shots of a one-and-one with 7.1 seconds remaining, and then kept Cleary’s step-back, game-winning three attempt at the buzzer from falling.

“It’s good to see Jai’Vionne Green go to the free throw line, hit the clutch free throws to get us up and win the game,” Black said. “It’s stuff we do everyday in practice and it’s good to see it translate to the game.”

It was BSU’s second win in a row after losing seven straight midway through the season.

“You feel the pressure, you’re feeling tense, you don’t play as well, you’re not making as good of decisions,” Boschee said of his team’s struggles. “You feel like you want to make the play for the team instead of moving the ball around like the first half.”

Wendt finished with 20 points, Best 18, Black 17 and Green 15. It was just enough to outlast 29 from Cleary and 16 from Knickerbocker.

The Beavers will be back in action against Sioux Falls at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13th from the BSU Gymnasium.

“We’ve been coming together really well,” Black said. “Earlier in the year, I don’t know if we would’ve completed some of these games that we’ve been pulling out. So it’s really good to see it come together now.”

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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