BEMIDJI -- Whenever the Bemidji High School boys basketball team sorely needed a defensive stop on Tuesday, Hermantown had other plans.
The Hawks protected their lead all night, fending off every Lumberjack threat for a 73-64 road win inside the BHS Gymnasium.
“We just never got any runs going,” Bemidji head coach Travis Peterson said. “We had some minutes of pretty good basketball, but they still answered every time. We’d score, they’d score. They have a really nice team, and they were a handful for us defensively.”
The packed crowd was begging all night to burst at the first hint of a momentum-swinging play. But the Lumberjack faithful went home unsatisfied at the team’s first home loss of the season and just its third in the past 21 home games.
“Defending the home court is a pride thing,” Peterson said. “The kids take a lot of pride in it. They’re bummed, they’re bummed. They want to win in front of their home fans. But they want to win every game.”
The clash of top-tier outstate teams lived up to its billing early on. BHS (13-5) overcame an early seven-point deficit and tied Hermantown at 12-all, but the Hawks (16-6) then raced ahead with the next 10 points to assume a 32-23 upper hand at the half.
The Bemidji bigs had a terribly difficult half trying to finish around the rim, and Hermantown escalated the frustration with a disciplined job of boxing out to limit second-chance opportunities.
“We didn’t have a great first half,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to make shots, and we didn’t in the first half. We missed way too many inside shots to be where we should have been at halftime. Playing from behind against a good team is very difficult.”
The Hawks built a 14-point lead with the first five of the second half, and the Jacks struggled to muster any rally with substance.
Colten Jensen slashed the deficit to eight, 37-29, with an inside score, but BHS still couldn’t break back within two scores. Bemidji even scored on five straight possessions to the midway mark of the second half, but Hermantown had the offense to match, easily withstanding a meager one-point dent into its lead.
Quincy Wilson converted on a layup with 48 seconds left, cutting within nine thanks to a 9-2 run, but it came harmlessly after Peter Soumis’ and-one dagger for the Hawks two minutes prior.
“That’s been one of our strengths: When we have a lead the last six, seven, eight minutes of a game, we’ve been able to close,” Peterson said. “I think it’s a sign of a good team. (Hermantown) is a good team, and they were able to close on us with the same situation.”
The Hawks even exacted a little revenge in the end, flipping a 16-point home loss to the Lumberjacks into a 25-point turnaround within 10 days.
“It’s a long season,” Peterson said. “We’ll learn from this. I think they’re going to want it that much more on Saturday.”
Ben Hess and Jensen shared the team lead with 16 points apiece for BHS, and Wilson added 13. On the night, Bemidji shot 23-for-63 (36.5 percent) from the field.
Soumis put up 25 and Kaden Kucza 21 for Hermantown.
The Jacks will close out its three-game homestand when they host Fergus Falls at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at the high school.
Hermantown 73, Bemidji 64
HHS 32 41 -- 73
BHS 23 41 -- 64
HERMANTOWN (16-6) -- Soumis 25, Kucza 21, Thomas 14, Mesedahl 9, Everett 2, Kragseth 2.
BEMIDJI (13-5) -- B. Hess 16, Jensen 16, Q. Wilson 13, S. Hess 7, Snell 5, Luksik 3, Arel 2, Williams 2.