BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School boys basketball team has had no luck in the close game department this season.
The Lumberjacks lost 55-49 to Fergus Falls Thursday night at the BHS Gymnasium, their eighth loss in nine games -- the past four of which have all been within two possessions.
“There have been a number of different things that have transpired and put us in those situations,” Bemidji head coach Steve Thompson said of the close losses. “I believe that we’re going to battle our way through this, and we’re going to find a way to win one of these close ones.”
The Jacks met a poised Otters team, one that was content with slowing the pace and milking the clock for all it was worth throughout the second half.
“They knew they would eventually get tired with the tempo and the pace we wanted it to be at,” Thompson said. “They stuck to their plan. They wanted to slow the game down and eat up the clock.”
Fergus Falls (8-7) rode a 9-2 start and held a 22-14 advantage late into the first half, but Isaiah Biehn hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the wing that sparked a 10-2 BHS run. Gavin Luksik capped the spurt with a putback for a 24-24 tie.
Elliot Pribbenow quashed the run by answering back with a three of his own, helping lift the Otters into a 31-26 lead by the break.
Bemidji seized momentum early in the second half, coming within 33-32 on an Isaac Severts jumper. But with possession and a chance to grab the lead, the Lumberjacks missed a pair of 3-pointers and never found the go-ahead shot.
“Defensively, (Fergus Falls) had a really good plan,” Thompson said. “They always defend really well, and they did that tonight. … We had our opportunities to knock down some open looks, and they just didn’t go our way.”
The Otters instead separated back out by holding BHS to just five points during a 10-minute span. Even still, Bemidji limited Fergus Falls to just 12 during that stretch and kept within eight, and then Matt Arel later drained a three to make it 50-47 with 1:13 to go.
James Williams cleaned up an offensive rebound to make it 51-49 with 28 seconds to go, but then the Otters made their free throws and the Jacks met an unfriendly rim during the desperate closing moments.
“(Fergus Falls) did a nice job per possession (and) with time of possession, but we still had plenty of opportunities to make a shot here or there,” Thompson said. “Then once we have the lead, it changes things.”
The loss drops BHS to 4-9 on the year. With four games left on the schedule, they’ll finish with a losing regular season record for the first time since 2015-16.
“These boys have shown (resiliency) all year long,” Thompson said. “They’ve responded after tough losses, they’ve responded after runs. We keep battling, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for that.”
Luksik had 12 points to pace Bemidji, and Severts finished with 10 to join him in double figures.
The Otters had three double-digit scorers in Dominic Aguilar (13), Kaden Conklin (12) and Luke Newman (12).
Bemidji will remain home to host St. Cloud Tech at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 6.
Fergus Falls 55, Bemidji 49
FF 31 24 -- 55
BHS 26 23 -- 49
FERGUS FALLS (8-7) -- Aguilar 13, Conklin 12, Newman 12, Pribbenow 8, Aho 5, Rinke 3, Sternberg 2.
BEMIDJI (4-9) -- Luksik 12, Severts 10, Arel 8, Wilson 8, I. Biehn 6, Williams 5.