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BOYS BASKETBALL: Tigers outrun Bemidji behind Ferguson’s 40 points

Donald Ferguson III dropped 40 points on the afternoon, more than enough to fuel St. Cloud Tech to a 78-63 win over the Lumberjacks.

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Bemidji senior Kenley Vincent (31) guards St. Cloud Tech’s Donald Ferguson III in the second half on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- When St. Cloud Tech’s Donald Ferguson III pulled up for a 3-pointer late in Saturday’s matchup against the Bemidji High School boys basketball team, the Tiger bench exploded with anticipation.

The game was already decided, but Ferguson’s teammates stood up, raised their arms and shouted out “Forty!” as the ball floated toward the hoop.

Ferguson hit nothing but net and, in turn, hit an even 40 points on the afternoon. That was more than enough to fuel a 78-63 win over the Lumberjacks inside the BHS Gymnasium.

“He’s a college-level player,” Bemidji head coach Steve Thompson said. “And he played like it today.”

Ferguson dazzled everybody but the home fans, many of whom groaned just about any time he got up a shot. In the end, he was the deciding factor in a game that had been back-and-forth for most of the day.

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Bemidji junior Isaac Severts (15) scores in the first half against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“We turned it over a little too much, and we probably didn’t finish as well as we wanted to,” Thompson said. “But credit to St. Cloud Tech. They made the shots they needed to make.”

An action-packed first half was wide open from the start. The Tigers (5-4) were steady with a small lead for most of the frame, but Bemidji (4-4) roared to life off a late hustle play from Gavin Luksik.

Luksik deflected a pass on defense and then won a long foot race for the loose ball, which he dished to Ethan Biehn for an easy layup. One possession later, Luksik flung a deep outlet pass to Isaac Severts for a thunderous breakaway dunk.

Severts added another bucket the next time down, capping a 7-0 run that got the Jacks within a point. And things tightened up further, ultimately to 35-35 by halftime.

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Bemidji senior Gavin Luksik (33) scores in the second half against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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But Ferguson had his way with the ball in his hands. After an 18-point first half, Ferguson torched the nets right out of the locker room.

He went on a personal 8-0 run early in the frame, turning a one-point game into a 46-37 Tech lead within 96 seconds.

“We were trying really hard to make it hard on him,” Thompson said. “He’s just a really skilled player. He can do it a number of different ways. And he did today.”

Soon after that, a Ferguson three stretched the difference to a game-high 10 points at 49-39. BHS never got closer than eight the rest of the way.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort, as Bemidji did have moments where momentum started to teeter back its way. But any time the Lumberjacks were one big shot away from getting right back in it, Ferguson always had the answer to silent any rumblings of a rally.

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Bemidji junior Matthew Matheney (21) leads a chant from the bench during the second half against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Ferguson’s final score was his corner 3-pointer that got him to 40. It also stretched the lead to a game-high 20 points at 78-58 with 1:14 remaining.

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Ferguson’s flurry outdid a 23-point performance from Severts and a 15-point showing from Luksik. Biehn also chipped in nine for BHS.

Despite the frustration of losing, though, Thompson still is embracing the highs and lows with his group.

“Every game is enjoyable with these boys. This is a good group of kids,” he said. “I appreciate all the hard work they’re putting in. This season, it’s a marathon. … We still have room for improvement.”

Bemidji will remain home, next hosting Grand Rapids at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at the BHS Gymnasium.

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Bemidji senior Khai Branham (43) scores a 3-pointer in the second half against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Bemidji junior Daniel Clusiau (1) makes a drive with the ball in the first half against St. Cloud Tech on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

St. Cloud Tech 78, Bemidji 63

SCT 35 43-- 78

BHS 35 28 -- 63

ST. CLOUD TECH (5-4) -- D. Ferguson 40, T. Ferguson 16, Russell 6, Simmons 5, Tap 5, Abubaker 4, Murray 2.

BEMIDJI (4-4) -- Severts 23, Luksik 15, Biehn 9, Wilson 7, Branham 5, Clusiau 2, Vincent 2.

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