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Sky-high center: Konecne developing into inside presence for Bemidji

Bemidji High School junior Spencer Konecne is an inside presence for the Lumberjacks, averaging 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game this season. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Bemidji High School junior Spencer Konecne (50) fights to score in the first half against Cloquet on Saturday, Dec. 23 at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Most everyone in Bemidji knows Paul Bunyan, but meet Spencer Konecne: the second tallest Lumberjack in town.

Standing at 6-foot-9, the junior center is the long and lanky inside presence for the Bemidji High School boys basketball team.

“I can block shots, reach out and grab rebounds,” Konecne said. “My style is defense and shot blocking, protecting the rim. And then on offense, I’m a good screener and always down low for a lob.”

Konecne has made a name for himself around the rim this season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game on the year.

“He’s definitely a game-changer for us,” BHS head coach Travis Peterson said. “We’re pretty deep at the guards, but to have a kid with Spencer’s presence inside is really welcome. It doesn’t happen every year that you have a kid with his size and athleticism that you can put in the post.”

Konecne is playing in his first full season on the varsity level, where he and the Lumberjacks are out to a 10-4 record. And while he feels the added weight of a bigger stage, Konecne has answered the call.

“I think varsity is a much bigger role, and I have more pressure on me,” he said. “But it’s a lot more fun for me because I’m always playing and (trying to) do good for my team.”

And winning eight of their last nine games hasn’t hurt, either.

“We’ve been playing our game: boxing out, getting boards -- that’s a big part -- and scoring in transition a lot,” Konecne said. “I think we’re having a lot more fun. We’re getting pumped up after wins, and we’re always cheering for each other.”

Bemidji boasts high-flying guards and sharpshooting threats all over the perimeter, but Konecne’s biggest contributions go back to his bread and butter: blocks on the defensive end.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” he said. “I always want to be there for my teammates and protect the rim. It gets the team pumped up… (Opponents) are usually always aware that I’m down there. It usually changes their shot completely.”

“He can anticipate, and that’s part of the reason why he’s blocking so many shots,” Peterson added. “He’s hungry to block shots… He’s averaging over three blocks a game, but he’s changing a lot more shots than that.”

Offensively, meanwhile, Konence’s 63.5 shooting percentage from the floor is second best on the team. And he gets off nearly seven attempts a game -- something Peterson said comes as a result of confident teammates.

“There’s increased trust. I think the perimeter players trust Spencer to be tough inside,” Peterson said. “We like that we can put it up in the air for him, and he’ll go up to places where other kids can’t to get the ball. And he’s been doing a good job of finishing at the rim.”

The Lumberjacks have a road game to take care of tonight -- a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Thief River Falls -- before returning home to host Alexandria at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27. And with 11 games remaining in the regular season, Konecne still has a duty to protect the rim. But it’s something that’s become easier as the year has progressed.

“He’s more and more comfortable on the varsity court each and every game,” Peterson said. “We knew that he could be a game-changer for us. And so far this season, he’s lived up to those expectations for sure. But we keep pushing him every day to get better.”

So as the Jacks inch closer to the postseason, Konence will be hard for opponents to miss inside. And whenever they challenge him on a drive regardless, Konence is gifted with another chance at his favorite part of the game.

“It’s probably blocking somebody’s shot,” he said. “I like the feeling of it.”

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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