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Bemidji High School girls basketball: Jacks face Elk River in section semifinals

The Bemidji High girls basketball team faces its stiffest test of the season tonight when it battles Elk River at 6 at Wadena in the 8-4A semifinals.

Brainerd and Buffalo will clash at 7:30 for the second berth in the final.

That game is set for St. John's University March 13 at 7.

Bemidji breezed into the final with a 79-55 win over St. Cloud Tech Tuesday. Elk River advanced by edging Apollo 53-51.

In the lower bracket, Brainerd ended the Moorhead season 63-53 while Buffalo upset Alexandria 75-70. Alex had been the No. 2 seed.

Bemidji brings a 23-3 record into play, one short of its all time win mark of 24 set in1992.

Elk River is 16-11 but considered far more dangerous than that mark would indicate.

For the Elks play a Twin Cities area schedule and met only two section teams all winter.

They fell to Buffalo 6343 in their season opener and beat Tech 52-42 two weeks later.

Bemidji has fallen only to Grand Rapids, Apollo and East Grand Forks, reversing the Rapids setback in the return meeting.

Defense, which Coach Rick Kehoe has been stressing all season will be the key tonight.

Both teams have been high scoring quintets all winter capable of reaching into the 70's and 80's on their best nights.

But the Bemidji defense, on its good nights, can be devastating, holding three foes this year under 20 points in a half. That has been a team goal since December.

Tech managed 22 in the playoff opener with a couple of last minute first half baskets.

Bemidji will again depend on scoring balance around Kayla Hirt with Paige Jensen an Megan Larson steady double digit scorers along the baseline.

Meg Claypool will direct traffic from the point with Abby Hendricks as off guard and defensive specialist.

And scoring production comes off the bench each game in Ashley Hirt, Erika Weimann, Kelsey Heisler and Megan Huseby as Kehoe rotates nine players throughout play.

Hirt reached 630 for this season and 1,026 for her two year career with 32 against Tech.. That was her seventh night over 30 this year with two 35 nights.

But Jensen has been in double figures 16 times with a high of 24 and Larson 12 times with a high of 15.

Last year Bemidji held off Alexandria its opener 67-64 despite a 54 point night by Angela Christianson. But it fell to Brainerd 51-45 in the semifinals. Brainerd then lost to Tech in the final.

Elk River toppled Apollo despite Courtney Lynch of the Eagles topping the 1,000 point mark in the contest. She ended with 29,.

The Elks had a more balanced attack behind Tempest Wilson who had 22. Five others hit 9-8-7-5-2. The Elks led 26-24 at the break and divided 54 points in the final 17 minutes.