BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School girls basketball team is expecting to face Alexandria again. Because of the way Monday’s meeting played out, the Lumberjacks certainly hope that’s the case.
“At least it wasn’t in the finals of the playoffs,” BHS head coach Steve Schreiber said. “We’re going to get to see this team again. … Credit to Alex. Great coach, disciplined athletes. I still think we’re at their caliber. We’ll get the opportunity, hopefully, to show that come playoff time. But it stings.”
The Cardinals dominated defensively, fueling a 60-39 road win inside the BHS Gymnasium in a potential Section 8-3A championship game preview.
“I pushed (our team) really hard in our last practice, I pushed them really hard before the game today, making sure they knew how big of a game this was,” Schreiber said. “I wouldn’t go back and change that. We looked like we came out a little bit tight, but I’m telling you, once we get to the playoffs, that atmosphere is going to be there. I won’t have to tell them then.”
The Jacks (12-5) couldn’t do much offensively, bested by Alexandria’s scoring defense (41.9 points per game) that ranks second in the state. The BHS defense held its own for a majority of the first half, but once frustration set in, the Cards took off.
“Offensively, I feel like missing shots led to us playing worse on defense. We got frustrated on offense and that carried over,” Schreiber said. “I thought defensively, for a very long stretch in the first half, we looked really good. … It’s frustrating that we couldn’t have at least made a game out of it.”
Taylor Wade’s 3-pointer set Bemidji in front 8-5 after five minutes of play. But over the next 10 minutes, 32 seconds, the Lumberjacks scored just one point.
Alexandria (15-5) flipped the defensive staring content into a one-sided avalanche, using a 17-1 run to go ahead 22-9. With offense in such high demand, the 13-point hole felt much deeper than usual.
“You can’t win if you’re going to give up a 17-1 run,” Schreiber said. “We can’t do that against Alex. You just can’t. Again, they’re just too well coached, and they’re too smart about basketball. They’re not going to give up that lead at that point.”
Emily Wade gave BHS a bit of life when she hit a running prayer from just inside half court to beat the halftime buzzer, sending the Jacks into the locker room with a manageable 27-15 deficit.
But Alexandria showed its teeth once again out of the break, using an early 8-0 run to separate and ultimately going ahead 45-23 on an Ella Grove layup seven minutes in.
“It was a big shot at the end of the half for Emily,” Schreiber said. “We were hoping we could ride some momentum off of that, but then we come out and miss a layup right off the bat, they score right off the bat, and same old, same old.”
Bemidji responded with the next eight points, capped by a Lindsey Hildenbrand three, but that 14-point ballgame was as close as things came from then on out. In search of something -- anything -- to get them going, the Lumberjacks never quite found what they needed.
“Frustration set in. It set in with me, it set in with the girls,” Schreiber said. “We just couldn’t get that two-minute stretch where things go right for us to get back on track.
“(Alexandria) knew how big of a game this was, too. I hope the girls kind of take that to heart a little bit and remember that. Because we’d like to be on the other side of it come playoff time.”
Hildenbrand reached 11 points to pace BHS, and Taylor Wade tallied nine. Summer Gerhardt’s 13 for the Cards led all scorers.
Bemidji will next host Duluth East at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at the high school.
Alexandria 60, Bemidji 39
ALX 27 33 -- 60
BHS 15 24 -- 39
ALEXANDRIA (15-5) -- Gerhardt 13, Grove 11, Hoelscher 10, M. McGrane 10, Horn 6, Strand 5, Kremer 4, Hatlestad 1.
BEMIDJI (12-5) -- Hildenbrand 11, T. Wade 9, Hofstad 7, E. Wade 5, Alto 3, Johnson 2, R. Jones 2.