ST. PAUL -- The scoreboard was unkind. The locker room was somber. And the season was over.
After a bitter 87-49 loss to fifth-seeded Mahtomedi in the Class 3A state consolation semifinals on Thursday, the Bemidji High School boys basketball team saw its most successful season since 1985 come to an end at Concordia-St. Paul.
“They had some good players, but we didn’t play the best we could,” Lumberjack senior Jacob Beberg said. “We played way better throughout the season, and we just didn’t come out ready right away to play against a good team.”
Faint cheers rang out from the other side of the locker room walls as BHS head coach Travis Peterson delivered a post-game speech to his players.
“This is where I (usually) get really emotional, and it’s because we don’t reach our goals, part of it,” Peterson said. “This year, we did. You guys did. You guys did something that no squad from Bemidji has done in 34 years. You earned your way here (and) represented Section 8, arguably one of the top sections in the state. I’m proud of the fight down here.”
However, the Jacks ran into a two-headed monster on Thursday -- made up of J’Vonne Hadley’s 30 points and Zac Centers’ 24 -- which ended a memorable postseason run.
“I didn’t think that we could see shooting better than we saw yesterday, and we did. But that’s how teams get down here,” Peterson said. “(Hadley and Centers) are dynamic players. Good shooting was huge. Our effort was tremendous, but they shot the lights out.”
The fifth-seeded Zephyrs (25-6) finished 29-for-56 from the field and 11-for-23 from behind the 3-point line. In contrast, BHS went 18-for-42 on shots and 7-for-19 from deep.
The hot shooting sunk Bemidji (23-6) into an early hole at 21-8, as Centers splashed his fifth three in the opening five minutes and Hadley followed with a backdoor basket.
From then on, Mahtomedi never allowed an opening for the Lumberjacks to climb back in it.
“We started a little bit slow, didn’t quite focus on the things that we needed to do our jobs,” junior Ben Hess said. “We needed stops, and we weren’t getting them. We didn’t knock down shots when we needed them either, necessarily. … You can’t catch up unless you get stops on one end and convert on the other.”
Beberg gave BHS some life when he hit two 3-pointers and a long jumper within three possessions. It showed Bemidji had picked it up after the slow start, but its deficit was still 42-26 at the break.
Hess opened the second-half scoring with a three that put the Jacks back on the brink of striking distance, but the Zephyrs scored the next 14 points for a daunting 56-29 difference.
A late 15-2 Mahtomedi run brought on running time, which soon brought an end to Bemidji’s state tournament run.
Beberg finished with a team-high 14 points off the bench, while Spencer Konecne added 10. The two seniors, as well as Kade Peterson, Ryan Bieberdorf, Kevin Hogquist, Noah Burgess and Cole Milz, graduate from a program that had won 11 games in the three seasons prior to their freshman year.
“Coming into the season, we felt like people didn’t see us winning a section title. With our seniors, we all believed it was possible. They did, too. Our seniors led the way.
“That’s what we’re going to take away: those memories with our seniors and the way they led. Moving into next year, we’re going to try to replicate that. They set a perfect example.”
After the final buzzer, the Lumberjacks lingered on the court before ultimately ushering back into the locker room. Once there, coach Peterson’s message was firmly on what they had built.
“What a turnaround,” he said. “… We have taken the next step for the program, the step that we’ve been trying to get to for years. You guys got us there. Now, we start over.”
No. 5 Mahtomedi 87, Bemidji 49
BHS 26 23 -- 49
MHS 42 45 -- 87
BEMIDJI (23-6) -- Beberg 14, Konecne 10, Burley 7, Milz 6, Peterson 6, B. Hess 3, S. Hess 3, Burgess 0, Hogquist 0, Jensen 0, Luksik 0, Snell 0, Wilson 0. Totals 18-42, 6-11, 49.
MAHTOMEDI (25-6) -- Hadley 30, Centers 24, Melzer 13, Ricker 7, Bell 6, Schulte 3, Greene 2, Schaefer 2, Bjork 0, Chapman 0, Devore 0, Fox 0, Maule 0, Moriarity 0, Murphy 0, Schetinski 0, Russell 0, Tangwall 0. Totals 29-56, 18-22, 87.