BOYS BASKETBALL: Lumberjacks show clutch gene in much-needed OT win
In overtime, Bemidji scored on its last eight possessions and never needed more than 22 seconds to answer a St. Cloud Tech basket.
BEMIDJI -- Yeah, that one felt good.
In a season warped by close losses, the Bemidji High School boys basketball team broke free from the narrative and prevailed Saturday, defeating St. Cloud Tech 89-84 in overtime at the BHS Gymnasium.
“It’s been all season,” senior James Williams said of the team’s four one-possession losses. “We’ve progressed, and our team keeps working. Finally, we came out with the W.”
The Lumberjacks (5-9) sure had to earn it, but they walked out as rightful victors through a poised finish. Bemidji had nine overtime possessions and scored on the final eight, including a seven-point outburst from Williams after regulation.
“James came up clutch and was hitting those floaters,” said sophomore Isaac Severts, who, in his own right, posted 26 points and 12 rebounds, identical to Gavin Luksik’s showing. “(Williams) is really the reason we got there like that.”
The sides alternated the first six baskets of overtime -- the first two BHS buckets on soft Williams floaters in the paint -- before the trend finally ended when Williams jumped a passing lane for a steal. He drained both ensuing free throws to give the Jacks the lead for good.
“Gavin, Isaac, they were huge all day,” Bemidji head coach Steve Thompson said. “They were stellar in a number of different areas: rebounding the ball, playing on the defensive end. And then James came up huge in overtime. He really sparked us on our run in overtime.”
All was well for BHS off the start. Luksik had a pair of and-one finishes as part of a 12-2 run to open the game. But the Tigers (3-11) entered into a 1-2-2 full-court press, which tempted the Jacks into unnecessary turnovers and flipped momentum to the visitors.
St. Cloud Tech rolled out a 13-0 run while holding BHS scoreless over a 5:42 span. KT Norwood splashed a 3-pointer to hand the Tigers the 15-12 edge, and, late in the half, Lincoln Benson’s back-to-back threes capped a separate 10-3 run for Tech’s largest lead at a dozen.
“We had a great start,” Thompson said. “They made an adjustment and went to the zone, and we didn’t execute our press break well to start. We made the adjustments at halftime, we handled it very well in the second half.”
Bemidji entered break trailing 36-26, but the Lumberjacks scored 11 straight to open the second half and roared ahead 37-36. Severts added a pair of two-handed dunks shortly after, seemingly signaling the onset of a BHS takeover, but St. Cloud Tech managed to stick around.
The final 11 minutes of regulation were all played within two possessions. The Tigers went on a 6-0 run behind Garrison Murray and Josh Carpenter 3-pointers in the final 1:12, turning a four-point deficit into a two-point lead. But Severts hit two free throws with 9.1 left on the clock to tie the game and force overtime.
“Oh my gosh, it looked like (a close loss) was going to happen again. It just makes me want to cry or something,” Severts laughed. “It’s tough. We’re really sick of it, so it was nice to come out (with a win).”
In overtime, Bemidji never needed more than 22 seconds to answer a St. Cloud Tech basket. Those quick responses were crucial in a back-and-forth toss up.
“After I make a basket, I just want the ball back. I want to keep taking shots,” Williams said. “That got the momentum.”
Seven of Williams’ 13 points came in overtime, while Severts had 16 during the second half to lead the Jacks to 49 as a team.
The Tigers had four double-digit scorers, led by Dontae Horshaw’s 20 points and Norwood’s 16.
Bemidji will continue its homestand at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, March 12, with a tipoff against Brainerd at the BHS Gymnasium.
Bemidji 89, St. Cloud Tech 84 (OT)
SCT 36 39 9 -- 84
BHS 26 49 14 -- 89
ST. CLOUD TECH (3-11) -- Horshaw 20, Norwood 16, Moua 14, Yeager 14, Murray 7, Benson 6, Kaczor 4, Carpenter 3.
BEMIDJI (5-9) -- Luksik 26, Severts 26, Williams 13, Wilson 7, Biehn 6, Arel 5, LaValley 4, Rohder 2.