BOYS BASKETBALL: Jacks tame Sabres for solid 77-66 win

021220.S.BP.BHSBBB Matt Arel.JPG
Bemidji High School junior Matt Arel (14) knocks down a 3-pointer in the second half of Saturday's 77-66 win over Sartell-St. Stephen at the BHS Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- It didn’t take anything flashy or spectacular -- and that made Saturday’s 77-66 home win over Sartell-St. Stephen even better for the Bemidji High School boys basketball team.

The Lumberjacks simply proved to be just a little bit better all game, taking the rematch of last season’s Section 8-3A championship in convincing fashion for their 12th win in 13 games.

“Our big emphasis was to hustle and run the floor,” junior Matt Arel said. “We knew that those guys love to run, and so do we, so we had to outwork them on the boards. We knew they were a lot bigger than us. We just hustled and rebounded.”

BHS (13-4) also got 29 points out of its reserves, including a team-high 15 from Arel and 12 from Nick Snell, which was a valuable difference-maker.

“We had a lot of points off the bench,” Bemidji head coach Travis Peterson said. “Nick Snell and Matt Arel coming off the bench combined for (27). That’s something that’s really nice to have and is not something we’ve had all the time. But we’ve had it the past couple of games.”


Silas Hess made a layup within three seconds of the opening tipoff, and despite a brief 8-8 tie, the Sabres (12-7) never came back for the lead.

“Right off the start, we came out with a lot of confidence and played our game,” Peterson said. “They’re a very good basketball team, and you don’t want to play from behind against a good basketball team. We didn’t have to do that because of the way we got after it right away.”

The Jacks ran off a 9-1 spurt to jump ahead 30-20, which included seven points from Arel and a then a fast-break bucket from Colten Jensen.

“It’s nice to see Matt knocking down shots,” Peterson said. “He’s had a couple really good offensive games this year, and that’s not something that we really ask him to do. We’re more focused on his defense because that’s his strength, but boy, he’s really becoming a well rounded player.”

BHS entered the second half with a 39-25 advantage. Though the difference slimmed down to eight, Bemidji soon used another 9-1 spurt to claim its largest lead at 56-39.

021220.S.BP.BHSBBB Quincy Wilson.JPG
BHS senior Quincy Wilson runs out in transition during Saturday's game against Sartell-St. Stephen at the BHS Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

“It was awesome,” Arel said of the run, which featured four different scorers. “We were all passing the ball well, finding the open man and finishing our shots.”


Sartell-St. Stephen still had room for a run, but the Lumberjacks never let them seize the opportunity.

The Sabres cut within nine at 61-52 with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining. But as they entered into fouling situations, BHS sunk 13 straight free throws to ice the game from the charity stripe.

It was nothing special, but the fundamentals worked like magic for an 11-point victory.

“We’ve got some tricks in the bag defensively, and we didn’t get fancy,” Peterson said. “We stayed man the whole game. We didn’t show any zone. In the past, we’ve run some zone against Sartell and it’s been effective, but we tried to keep it in the back pocket, I guess. We didn’t really need it today.”

Arel finished 4-for-4 from behind the arc to fuel his 15-point performance. Quincy Wilson added 14, including a 10-for-10 mark at the free-throw line, and after Snell’s 14 points, Jensen produced 11 points and 12 rebounds. Hess was also in double figures with 10 points.

Gustav Gunderson tallied 20 points for the Sabres but missed the final 4:19 with an apparent leg injury.

Bemidji will hope to keep rolling at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, when it hosts Hermantown at the BHS Gymnasium.

Bemidji 77, Sartell-St. Stephen 66


SSS 25 41 -- 66

BHS 39 38 -- 77

SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN (12-7) -- Gunderson 20, Hagy 18, Lund 11, Bjelland 7, Sieben 6, Templin 3, Hartwig 1.

BEMIDJI (13-4) -- Arel 15, Q. Wilson 14, Snell 12, Jensen 11, S. Hess 10, Luksik 9, B. Hess 4, Williams 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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