BOYS BASKETBALL: Bemidji comeback loses steam, Sabres salvage playoff win late

The Lumberjacks surmounted an unlikely comeback and had Sartell-St. Stephen on the ropes, but the Sabres closed on a 14-2 run over the final seven minutes.

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Bemidji Lumberjacks

SARTELL -- Just when everything was rolling for the Bemidji High School boys basketball team, it all came crashing down.

The Lumberjacks surmounted an unlikely comeback and had Sartell-St. Stephen on the ropes, but the Sabres closed on a 14-2 run over the final seven minutes to win 56-47 in a Section 8-3A Tournament quarterfinal clash in Sartell.

Matt Arel drained a 3-pointer with 7:20 remaining, putting sixth-seeded BHS on top 45-42. But the third-seeded Sabres (10-9) didn’t allow a point for the next 6:34, using the drought for a 10-0 run that salvaged a win after letting go of a 15-point first-half lead.

Sartell-St. Stephen started with a bang, using a 15-0 run to go ahead 20-6 within seven minutes of tipoff. The Sabres kept control through the rest of the half, entering the break with a 36-23 advantage.

But the tides turned out of the locker rooms, as Isaac Severts turned a steal into a two-handed dunk that ignited Bemidji’s comeback.


Arel drained a three and then a layup to start a 10-0 spurt, which James LaValley furthered with a layup of his own. Khai Branham’s ensuing 3-pointer gave the Jacks a 42-40 lead and all the momentum with 8:49 remaining.

The swing forced a Sabre timeout, but Mason Lund slammed down an alley-oop dunk from Gus Gunderson to tie it back up at 42-all. Arel answered back with a go-ahead three, but Gunderdon came back down and converted an and-one 3-pointer that gave Sartell-St. Stephen the lead for good.

The Sabres ate up clock down the stretch, and BHS only finally scored again when James Williams hit a floater with 46 seconds remaining. That got Bemidji within 52-47, but it was the Jacks’ final score of the night in the ultimate nine-point loss.

Gavin Luksik finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds and five steals to spearhead the BHS cause. Severts neared a double-double of his own with 11 points and nine boards, while Arel hit eight points.

Gunderson and Lund each posted 15 points each to share the team lead for the Sabres.

The Lumberjacks finish the season 6-11 and graduate five seniors in Isaiah Biehn, Trevor Rohder, Williams, Arel and LaValley.

No. 3 Sartell-St. Stephen 56, No. 6 Bemidji 47


BHS 23 24 -- 47

SSS 36 20 -- 56

BEMIDJI (6-11) -- Luksik 14, Severts 11, Arel 8, Williams 6, Branham 3, Wilson 3, LaValley 2

SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN (10-9) -- Gunderson 15, Lund 15, Hartwig 11, Clark 7, Templin 4, Haus 2, Nelson 2.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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