DETROIT LAKES -- Third-seeded Bemidji took command early and got rid of a couple historical jinxes in defeating No. 2 seed Detroit Lakes 67-51 in the Section 8-3A girls basketball semifinal Tuesday, March 23, at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium in DL.
Bemidji head coach Steve Schreiber recorded his first coaching victory at The Ralph and the Lumberjacks were victorious on the Lakers’ floor for the first time since 2010.
“There is something about this building,” Schreiber said. “I talked to Alexandria’s coach and Fergus Falls’ coach. This is a really tough place to play. You guys pack it with your fans and the girls always show up here. We knew coming in -- we lost earlier (this year) here. We knew we had to be spot on and play at the top of our game to get a win tonight and a win in this gym is extra special because it just doesn’t happen very often.”
The Jacks only trailed once in the game, 5-4 on a Sarah Tangen 3-point basket in the early going.
Grace Gunderson got the Lakers to within a point trailing 9-8 after her field goal, but Bemidji responded with an 11-0 run to lead 20-8 on a Jody Pemberton left-handed hook shot in the paint.
Bemidji was strong shooting from outside and found ways to get inside the Laker defense for scores at the basket.
“We just call it rim running and earlier in the year we weren’t rim running well and weren’t really gelling as a team,” said Schreiber.
The Jacks graduated four starters last year and the fifth injured an ACL in the summer, compounding the group’s ability to come together right aways this season.
The Lakers have employed steady movement on the offensive end all season, picking up the speed of plays as the year progressed. Tuesday night, Bemidji found a way to throw a wrench in the machine.
“They disrupted the flow and offensively they had a great plan too and when you’re hitting stuff that makes it hard,” Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson said. “Just being able to penetrate and finish around the rim and also having to guard the kick out because they’re going to finish their 3-pointers too. It makes it a really difficult challenge for everyone to guard.”
Getting off to a slow shooting start and trying to find a flow offensively made the Lakers’ path to victory more difficult.
“It was a tough start,” said Johnson. “The ball was a little sticky and the shots weren’t falling. As the game progressed, the closer we got, we were almost over the hump and they would go and knock down a three and that just takes the wind out of your sails.”
The Lakers got into a groove late in the first half, finishing off a 12-6 run to the halftime horn to go to the break down a half-dozen 26-20. DL freshman Helena Daggett hit a big three from the corner to finish off the run and send the Lakers to the locker room with needed momentum.
Jacee Hauser and Gunderson had big threes in the early going of the second half as DL kept pace and trailed 36-31 at the 13-minute mark.
Bemidji’s Emily Wade scored on back-to-back possessions, getting to the rim and the foul line to extend the lead to seven. On the ensuing inbounds play, Schreiber sent his team into a full-court press and Wade sniped a Laker pass and scored again to create a nine-point cushion in five seconds.
Ava Jones drained a three for Detroit Lakes, but Bemidji started to have answers at every turn beginning with an answer from the arc by Katelyn Milbrandt.
Hauser got to the line for two and got the Lakers within seven points at 10:28, but Alexie Tatro drained a three for Bemidji at the 10-minute mark for a double digit advantage 46-36.
The Jacks held a 10-point lead for most of the final nine minutes.
Hauser pulled DL to within nine coming out of a melee under the Laker hoop to swish a fadeaway.
Bemidji employed a backdoor cut to Wade with excellent assists from Beth Bolte to get to the rim late and sealed the game shooting freebies in the double bonus.
Wade led all scorers with 22 points; Jackie Johnson had 18. Bolte and Milbrandt each scored eight points.
Hauser paced the Lakers with 14 points. Alex Bettcher scored 12; Grace Gunderson added eight.
The home team had won the last seven games in this series until Tuesday night. Bemidji (10-10) picked up only its sixth win in the past 22 games against Detroit Lakes since 2010.
Top-seeded Alexandria (16-4) defeated No. 4 Sartell-St. Stephen 50-30 in the other semifinal and will host the section championship game at 6 p.m. Friday, March 26. The Cardinals are the defending section champs.
“If we can take care of the basketball against them we’ll be OK,” Schreiber said. “I don’t think our girls are afraid of that game, they’re looking forward to it. We lost to them at their place and we had a lead for a good portion of that game. They were asking for one more game and now we get it. We’re excited.”
No. 3 Bemidji 67, No. 2 Detroit Lakes 51
BEM 26 41 -- 67
DET 20 31 -- 51
BEMIDJI (10-10) -- Wade 22, Johnson 18, Bolte 8, Milbrandt 8, Tatro 5, Huberty 2, Pemberton 2, Zetah-Cornelius 2.
DETROIT LAKES (12-7) -- Hauser 14, Bettcher 12, Gunderson 8, Tangen 5, Larson 4, Daggett 3, Jones 3, Anderson 2.