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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bemidji holds off late rally to topple Grand Rapids

Bemidji senior Casey Palmer (35) takes a low baseline feed for two points against Grand Rapids defender Taylor Kane during the first half Thursday night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Bemidji was able to hold off a late rally to earn a 66-55 victory over Grand Rapids Thursday at the BHS Gym for its first win of the season.

Bemidji owned a lead as large as 17 points in the second half, but saw it shrink to just four points with less than five minutes remaining.

“I was proud of the girls,” Bemidji head coach Rick Kehoe said. “We did not fold. We weathered the storm and did what we needed to do to get the win.”

Alexa Greendahl jump started the Lumberjacks offense with six early points to help build a 8-2 lead after five minutes of play.

Despite having troubles holding onto the ball on offense, Bemidji was able to stay strong on defense to maintain the lead at 15-9 with six minutes left in the half.

“We preach defense every single day,” Kehoe said. “I tell the girls that we are going to go through stretches on the offensive end, but we can always play good defense.”

The Lumberjacks offense started to heat up in the final minutes of the first half, as Amber Smith and Greendahl connected back-to-back three-pointers to increase the lead to 23-10 with 1:30 remaining until the half.

Bemidji held a halftime lead of 27-13.

“The girls are still nervous so to build a lead before halftime was great for us to get into a comfort zone,” Kehoe said. “We started hitting shots because we started taking correct shots.”

Greendahl scored 11 of her team-high 20 points in the first half.

“She was huge tonight,” Kehoe said of Greendahl. “She played strong inside. It was a physical game and we did not back down at all.”

Led by a trio of three-point plays by Kelsey Olson, the Lumberjacks were able to increase its lead to as large as 17 points in the second half.

Olson finished with 13 points.

Sparked by eighth grader Heaven Hamling, the Thunderhawks came storming back. She scored ten points in a 15-2 run that cut the Lumberjacks lead to just four points at 54-50 with four minutes left in the game.

“She is going to be a special player,” Kehoe said of Hamling. “She hit a step-back three from well beyond the three-point line. She has absolutely no fear.”

“I think her JV days are over,” he added with a laugh.”

Hamling scored 21 of her game-high 26 points in the second half.

Bemidji was able to tighten up their defense and make their free throws to hold on for the win.

Bemidji (1-1) will look to stay in the win column when it travels to Hibbing next Tuesday.

Bemidji 66, Grand Rapids 55

Grand Rapids (55): Havling 8 6 26, Kane 4 3 11, Peterson 3 0 6, Kuschel 1 1 4, Guertin 2 0 4, Morris 1 0 2, Lopac 1 0 2. Totals 23 10 55.

Bemidji (66): Greendahl 8 1 20, Palmer 4 6 14, Olson 3 5 13, Leif 3 0 6, Smith 1 1 4, Woods 1 2 4, Chadwick 1 0 2, Ricci 1 0 2, LaRose 1 0 1. Totals 23 16 66.

Halftime: Bemidji 27, Grand Rapids 13