BEMIDJI -- From start to finish, Thursday night felt like a playoff game. And from start to finish, the Bemidji High School girls basketball team played like as much was at stake.
“With sections around the corner, this is what the atmosphere is going to feel like,” senior Lindsey Hildenbrand said. “The crowd was amazing, our bench was amazing. … We were really focused.”
The Lumberjacks earned a spirited 65-60 overtime victory over Class 4A Moorhead inside the BHS Gymnasium, clinching the program’s first win over the Spuds in over seven years.
“My seniors 'seniored,'” Bemidji head coach Steve Schreiber said. “They’ve done it all year long in spurts, but they did it all game long tonight.
“This game is a testament to who our seniors are. When we can play a full game like that, we believe we can play with any (Class) 3A team in the whole state.”
The Jacks (17-8) saved perhaps their best game of the year for the regular-season finale, coming up clutch with both the baskets and the defensive stops when they needed them the most.
“We finally played how we’ve wanted to play,” Hildenbrand said. “We were making shots, we were playing really good defense and getting steals. … Everything kind of came together, which is awesome before sections.”
Defense dominated a scoreless two minutes to start overtime, but Emily Wade put BHS in front with a 15-foot baseline jumper. Samantha Hulst answered with a 3-pointer for the lead, but the Jacks rallied with a closing 6-0 run in the final 39 seconds.
First was Hildenbrand’s go-ahead layup, then came Taylor Wade’s crucial defensive rebound and two free throws. Then in a three-point game, Katie Alto finished it off with a steal in the final 10 seconds, plus two more free throws, to seal the celebration.
Taylor Wade with a huge rebound after Spuds miss two free throws, get the offensive rebound, and miss another three.— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) February 21, 2020
Wade is fouled and makes both free throws. Moorhead ball, down 63-60 with 17.8 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/956CBkw5Bi
“The growth (the seniors) have made since ninth grade to this point is awesome,” Schreiber said. “(Alto) plays great defense. That steal, that is just indicative of who Katie Alto is.”
After Wade’s free throws, Katie Alto had an absolutely huge steal to all but seal the win. Alto, who shines on defense, just had one of her biggest moments on that end. pic.twitter.com/8M5tDnmKiJ— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) February 21, 2020
But the Spuds (17-8) certainly didn’t go easy. Moorhead led for the majority of the first half, including a late 9-2 run that spurred them into a 30-24 advantage at the break.
Bemidji ultimately took back control, starting the second half on an 11-2 run for a three-point edge. BHS jumped ahead 49-44 when Hildenbrand followed her own and-one layup with a defensive deflection that led to another fast-break layup off Ashley Hofstad’s assist.
“When Lindsey believes in herself like the coaching staff believes in her, she is almost unstoppable,” Schreiber said. “She has been on a tear these last two weeks or so. It’s like she realizes that the end is in sight, and she’s not going to leave anything on the floor.”
The Lumberjacks made it a seven-point lead when Hofstad followed with a layup with 5:21 to go. But the Spuds clawed all the way back, erasing a six-point deficit in the final three minutes and sending the game to overtime on Samantha Zimmerman’s game-tying free throws with 29.6 seconds left.
Nevertheless, Hildenbrand put Bemidji up for good in overtime by splitting two defenders on a drive to the rim, delivering the game-winning basket to score an instant-classic win.
“If we can beat this team, we can play with anybody we’re going to see from here on out,” Schreiber said. “Our goal this year was to come in and take a step up from last year. Nobody believed we could do it. … A lot of people were expecting us to be (around) .500. We proved that we didn’t step down at all. We stepped up.”
Hildenbrand had a game-high 24 points alongside 12 from Emily Wade and 11 from Alto. Zimmerman paced Moorhead with 23.
BHS next awaits its Section 8-3A Tournament fate, which will be announced Monday, Feb. 24. The Jacks are locked in to the No. 2 seed and will host the No. 7 seed on Thursday, Feb. 27.
Bemidji 65, Moorhead 60 (OT)
MHD 30 27 3 -- 60
BHS 24 33 8 -- 65
BEMIDJI (17-8) -- L. Hildenbrand 24, E. Wade 12, Alto 11, T. Wade 9, Hofstad 7, R. Jones 2, J. Jones 0.
MOORHEAD (17-8) -- Zimmerman 23, Hulst 14, Polomny 12, Dumas 8, Anderson 2, Haugo 1.
BHS raises nearly $2,000 for Jane
The team announced Thursday that it has raised nearly $2,000 this season for Jane Comfort, a 2-year-old in Bemidji with Spinal Muscular Atrophy -- and on the eve of her third birthday, no less.
The Lumberjacks took pledges for each charge they take throughout the year, and BHS has racked up 16 so far.
Jane and her mother, Megan, who is a Bemidji girls basketball alum, were in attendance to receive a gift from the team at halftime.