BEMIDJI -- Ben Hess couldn’t move. He couldn’t believe it.
“It’s surreal,” the senior guard said. “You’re frustrated, rewinding the game in your mind and thinking about what you could have done better.”
As Alexandria celebrated a wild 71-62 win at the BHS Gymnasium on Friday night, Hess stood idle as the Bemidji High School boys basketball team took a gut punch of a season-ending loss in the Section 8-3A semifinals.
“You never expect to lose in the playoffs, especially when you’re a higher seed playing in your own gym,” Hess said. “That’s going to be the tough part: not going to the gym every day after school and getting after it with those guys and the coaches.”
The third-seeded Cardinals (20-8) took the lead with 10 minutes, 30 seconds to play and never relinquished it. Although the second-seeded Lumberjacks (19-7) pushed desperately for a rally, the efforts didn’t go anywhere without the defensive stops they sorely needed.
“You have to get stops to make a run,” BHS head coach Travis Peterson said. “We’d make a run, but it’d be four points. We couldn’t get a run of more than two possessions. When you’re down three possessions, you need three stops to get back even. We just couldn’t quite do that.”
Things got wild -- and emotional -- late. Alexandria led by eight and was looking for the dagger with two minutes remaining when Carrson Jones hit the deck during a dead ball, which prompted a technical foul against Bemidji senior Silas Hess.
Lumberjack fans were irate at the perceived flop, and the outrage only heightened a minute later when the same two were issued double technicals. Silas Hess landed on top of Jones as both went for a loose ball, and Jones reacted to something within the pile up after Hess helped him back to his feet.
By the time the mayhem was sorted out, Bemidji was stripped of the wind from its sails.
“Some unfortunate events took place there, late in the (second) half,” Ben Hess said. “People have different opinions about different things, and everyone will disagree. So that’s difficult, but we needed stops and we didn’t get them. We can’t trade buckets, especially late like that.”
Still, it was a game that was there for the taking.
All five BHS starters got on the board as part of a 12-5 start, culminating in Gavin Luksik’s layup to cap an 8-0 run, but nothing opened up throughout the remainder of the half. The Lumberjacks led most of the way, yet the Cardinals closed on a 10-2 run for a 27-25 advantage into the intermission.
Here’s how that final play looked from my vantage point: pic.twitter.com/bxvbQzQvxo— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) March 7, 2020
Even so, Bemidji ripped off an 11-0 run early in the second half to go ahead 38-32. Erik Hedstrom and Jones answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game, however, and Colton Roderick’s three a minute later put Alexandria up for good.
“They hit a few shots,” Ben Hess said. “We missed some bunnies there, too. We had quite a few we’d normally make, even if they are tough shots. It doesn’t always go your way, and it didn’t go our way tonight. That’s just how it is.”
Colten Jensen tallied 17 points for BHS alongside 13 from Ben Hess and 12 from Luksik. Roderick dropped 31, including 25 after halftime, to lead all scorers.
Rather than the expected march into the section championship game, the Jacks instead had to watch as Alexandria raced away with their bid. And so ended the careers of Quincy Wilson, Colby Carlson, Nick Snell, Silas Hess, Ben Hess and Jensen.
“They’ve battled for many years together,” Peterson said. “They’ll take away some great things from high school athletics that will help them throughout life. They’ll remember this loss, but it won’t sting as bad as time goes by. The positives, the fun times will outweigh those times that didn’t quite go our way.”
No. 3 Alexandria 71, No. 2 Bemidji 62
ALX 27 44 -- 71
BHS 25 37 -- 62
ALEXANDRIA (20-8) -- Roderick 31, Hoskins 17, Hedstrom 14, Jones 7, McCoy 2.
BEMIDJI (19-7) -- Jensen 17, B. Hess 13, Luksik 12, S. Hess 7, Q. Wilson 7, Arel 4, Snell 1, Williams 1.