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Pat Miller: This week at Bemidji High School - Boys basketball team is improving

The holiday break has arrived and most of the Bemidji High School winter sports teams have experienced mixed results.

The boys basketball squad ended the 2013 portion of its schedule with a 1-10 record but fans who have followed the Lumberjacks this winter have seen progress.

Among those with first-hand knowledge of Bemidji’s improvement is East Grand Forks head coach Travis Lindgren. In late November the teams met at the Lumberjacks Classic hosted by Bemidji and the Green Wave throttled the Jacks 90-37.

Last week the teams staged a rematch at the BHS gym and this time the Lumberjacks gave EGF all it could handle before falling 67-58.

In the first matchup Bemidji did little right. Its shots didn’t fall, it couldn’t handle East Grand Forks’ inside game and it wasn’t able to run with the Green Wave.

Last week the Jacks improved in all areas.

“We were not surprised that they (the Jacks) were able to come out and make shots tonight,” Lindgren said of last week’s game. “They shot a low percentage last time, but we know that they are a very good three-point shooting team and they made a lot of shots tonight.”

“We are really starting to figure out who our go-to guys will be,” BHS coach Dan Ninham said after last week’s game. “We played well and did everything that we wanted to do, but in crunch time we just could not make the plays. We just have to keep improving.”

On Saturday Bemidji hosted Minneapolis North which is ranked No. 2 in the state’s Class A QRF ratings. The Polars lived up to their billing as they reached triple figures in a 104-84 win.

As has been the custom in most of their recent outings, however, the Lumberjacks played Minneapolis North on even terms in the second half.

“We were down 62-41 at half and we couldn’t close the gap,” said BHS assistant coach Travis Peterson. “We got caught in their type of game, especially in the first half. North is very athletic and when we tried to press they were able to get the ball behind us for the layup.”

Testing themselves against quality opponents such as EGF and Minneapolis North is exactly what the Bemidji coaches and players want to do. The program is trying to regain its footing and each game is looked at as a learning experience.

“We want to play teams like Minneapolis North because they give us a variety of different styles,” Peterson said. “It was a good experience for us to have them come to Bemidji.”

The Lumberjacks will begin the 2014 portion of their schedule Jan. 2 at Moorhead. The next home game will be 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 against Thief River Falls at the Sanford Center.

At 6 p.m. that day the girls basketball team will host the Prowlers, also at the Sanford Center.

The girls compiled a 3-3 record prior to the Christmas break and are coming off a 70-54 victory at International Falls. Unlike the boys, the girls squad is participating in a holiday tournament as the team will travel to Cloquet on Friday and Saturday.

In Friday’s action BHS will take on Watertown-Mayer and on Saturday they will tangle with Browerville. Both games are listed for 1 p.m. starts.

Watertown-Mayer will bring a 4-3 record into Friday’s contest while Browerville is 5-0.

The gymnastics team continued its improvement last Friday at a meet in Fargo as the Lumberjacks scored 134.05 points on way to a second-place finish in the five-team competition.

The team total represented the second straight time that Bemidji topped the 134-point barrier and among those helping the cause was Alyssa Allen who compiled a 35.15 all around score.

BHS will take the holidays off and will return to action Jan. 4 at the Park Rapids Invitational.

The boys hockey team will have a busy holiday as the Lumberjacks head to Duluth Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the annual tournament hosted by Denfeld.

In Thursday’s opening round BHS (3-5) will tangle with Buffalo at 1 p.m. On Friday the Lumberjacks will face either Cloquet or St. Louis Park and the game time will be either 1 p.m. (consolation round) or 6 p.m. (championship round).

The time of Saturday’s game will be determined by Bemidji’s earlier results and could be at 10 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. or 5 p.m.

Also playing in the tournament are Rosemount, Apple Valley, Denfeld and Owatonna.

The girls hockey team ended 2013 on a positive note as it blistered Brainerd-Little Falls 9-0 Saturday. That victory gave the Lumberjack a 4-7-2 record and snapped a two-game losing skid. The game also was the first of three consecutive home appearances. BHS will return to the Community Arena Jan 3 against Fergus Falls and then will complete the homestand Jan. 7 against Moorhead.

The swimmers and divers continue to show dramatic improvement and last week the majority of the athletes set personal bests as the Jacks tied Park Rapids 93-93. Among those who rose to the challenge was diver Sam Howard as the senior set a school record by tallying 279.70.

“We were amazing,” said BHS coach Megan Fuller after the meet. “We had more individual bests than I could count and some of the personal bests were by seven and eight seconds.

“The kids competed with a huge heart and this was a great way to start the home season.”

On Friday Bemidji will try to continue its success when it participates in the Brainerd Invitational.

The wrestlers are having a very good season and last weekend they finished fourth at the 33-team Big Bear tournament held in Cass Lake.

Individually the Jacks won two titles as Brian Maas captured the 113-pound crown and Kade Johnson matched that effort at 182.

Contributing sixths were Wyatt Yoemans at 220 and Gannon Strain at 160.

The Jacks will return to duty Jan. 3 at Cambridge.

The skiers are already well ahead of the game, at least compared to the past few years when snow came late and Bemidji was scrambling for areas to practice and venues to compete.

BHS already has two meets under its belt and on Friday the Lumberjacks will head to Brainerd.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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