Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.
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The Bemidji boys hockey team capped a memorable regular season Thursday as it headed to Thief River Falls and returned with a 5-1 victory. BHS ended the year with a 21-2-2 record and will own the favorite's role in the Section 8AA tournament. The playoffs begin Saturday when eighth-ranked River Lakes entertains No. 9 Becker-Big Lake. That winner will travel to top-seeded Bemidji 7 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The 8AA semifinals are set for Feb. 26 and the title game is March 2. Thursday's victory also assured BHS the Mariucci Conference championship.
Performing at their best will be the goal of the Bemidji gymnasts in today's Section 8AA meet in Brainerd. The Lumberjacks are unlikely to be in the hunt for any state-meet berths as defending champion St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd appear to have too much talent for Bemidji to crack the top four in any of the events. "Our goal will be to see how high we can score and shoot for our highest marks of the season.
Bemidji's skiers at Thursday's state Nordic meet hosted by Giant's Ridge near Biwabik all finished within the upper two-thirds of the field as Bailey Drewes was 80th among the girls skiers, Adam Holter was 80th in the boys division and Tony Sagedahl finished 83rd. Thursday's races featured 120 boys and 120 girls who each skied a 5-kilometer skating run in the morning and a 5-kilometer classical run in the afternoon. "Sending three kids to state is an accomplishment," said BHS coach Mark Walters.
The first winter high school state tournament will be held today as Giant's Ridge near Biwabik hosts the Nordic ski competition and Bemidji will have three representatives in the day's activities. Senior Bailey Drewes will make a return trip to the state meet in the girls division as will Tony Sagedahl and Adam Holter in the boys competition. A year ago Drewes placed 74th while Sagedahl was 93rd and Holter 95th. All three skiers hope to improve upon those finishes. The state format includes a 5-kilometer skating run in the morning and a 5-kilometer classical race in the afternoon.
Mitch Brown made seven of his eight free throws in the final 1:48 and those points proved essential as the Bemidji boys basketball team edged Detroit Lakes 78-74 Tuesday night in Detroit Lakes. The Lumberjacks improved to 18-3 with the important Section 8-3A victory while the Lakers dropped to 15-6. After taking a seemingly comfortable 31-17 lead in the first half BHS saw the home team whittle away at its deficit and by intermission the Lakers were within 38-32.
As a preliminary competition to Thursday's state Nordic ski meet, the coaches' association members will host the Charlie Banks Relay today at Giant's Ridge. The event was created to provide a race for the skiers who came up short in their bids for berths at the state meet. The format includes four-person teams and a three-kilometer course. The first two skiers per team will do a classical run while their two teammates will skate-ski the trail. Bemidji will enter a team in both the boys and the girls races.
The Pete Fenson rink of Bemidji maintained its unbeaten status Tuesday at the USA Curlng National meet in Fargo. Tuesday's action saw Fenson down Jason Larway of Seattle 8-4 to improve to 6-0. The Tyler George rink of Duluth remained on Fenson's heels, however, as it won its fifth game in six outings by nipping Matt Hamilton of Madison, Wisc. 6-5 on the strength of two rocks in the 10th end. Owning 4-2 records after Tuesday's round were the Todd Birr rink of Mankato and Hamilton. Birr dumped Craig Brown of Madison, Wisc.
Tandy Juell of the Bemidji State University men's track and field team captured third place in the NSIC heptathlon which was held Sunday and Monday at St. Cloud State. Juell earned 4,774 points and provisionally qualified for the heptathlon at the NCAA II indoor track and field meet. Laquone Robinson of Moorhead was the heptathlon winner as he finished with 5,005 points.
For much of the winter the Bemidji Nordic ski teams have had to keep an eye on the thermometer hoping that the mercury would rise above 4-below-zero so a meet could begin. Thursday at Giant's Ridge a trio of Lumberjacks and their state-meet peers will be monitoring the weather once again. This time, however, the skiers will be hoping for cold instead of warmth. "Our greatest concern will be the condition of the course," said BHS ski coach Mark Walters.
The Bagley and Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball teams continued their winning ways last week while the Blackduck girls posted a pair of victories and improved to 8-12 overall. The Panthers, Blackduck and Nevis all were looking to make a move in the Northland Conference standings as last week began but when the dust settled, CL-B won its key game against Blackduck, Nevis stopped Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Blackduck also fell to Pine River-Backus. Heading into this week Cass Lake-Bena and Nevis shared the top spot with 8-2 league marks and Blackduck dropped to third at 7-3.