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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Beavers lose finale, which can ‘light a fire’ for playoffs

Bemidji State lost its regular season finale, a 67-57 decision against No. 16 St. Cloud State at the BSU Gymnasium. It doesn’t hurt any with the Beavers’ playoff seed already predetermined, but a four-game losing streak changes the tune of how they’ll enter it.

022322.S.BP.BSUWBB Rachael Heittola.JPG
Bemidji State sophomore Rachael Heittola (32) makes a move in the post during the first half of a game against No. 16 St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s game was one that didn’t matter for the Bemidji State women’s basketball team. But the Beavers are determined to make it count.

“I think the last three games, we lit the fire after those (losses),” BSU head coach Chelsea DeVille said. “We responded today, and unfortunately we were playing the No. 16 team in the nation.

“But I liked how we fought. I liked who we were. I liked what we did, it just wasn’t enough. But now we go to second season, and that starts Wednesday.”

Bemidji State lost its regular season finale, a 67-57 decision against No. 16 St. Cloud State at the BSU Gymnasium. It doesn’t hurt any with the Beavers’ playoff seed already predetermined, but a four-game losing streak changes the tune of how they’ll enter it.

“It can light a fire,” sophomore center Rachael Heittola said. “It’s a brand new season. We just have to go in with the same fight we had today. If we do, then we can beat anyone.”

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022322.S.BP.BSUWBB Brooklyn Bachmann.JPG
Bemidji State senior Brooklyn Bachmann (12) runs past St. Cloud State's Tori Wortz in the first half of a game on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

The difference on Saturday was the Huskies’ prowess on the defensive end. It kept Bemidji State scoreless for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and it turned a close contest into a 20-point blowout without enough time to recover.

“They’re not just solid, they’re beyond solid,” DeVille said of SCSU. “They’re long, and they get into passing lanes and driving lanes, so every shot is difficult to get. And they don’t kill themselves offensively. They don’t turn it over, they’re very efficient.”

St. Cloud State (21-3, 19-2 NSIC) jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter, and things looked like they might get out of hand in a hurry. But BSU (13-12, 11-10 NSIC) buckled down, came back within 22-14 after the first frame and trailed just 34-27 by halftime.

The third quarter tightened even further. Heittola scored inside to climb within four at 42-38, and Claire Wolhowe then had a 3-point look that would have brought the house down. The shot unforgivingly rattled out, though, and the Beavers never came as close again.

022322.S.BP.BSUWBB Claire Wolhowe.JPG
Bemidji State senior Claire Wolhowe (24) rolls off a screen in the first half against No. 16 St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

“St. Cloud, their defense is always amazing,” Heittola said. “There were a couple times where we went down and didn’t convert. And that’s OK, it happens all the time, but their offense just got rolling a little bit.”

SCSU led 51-44 after three quarters, and then the Huskies scored the first 13 points of the fourth to pull away for good. But Heittola spun it positively, knowing that their postseason plans were locked up well before opening tipoff.

“We always fight until the very end, which is great. It’s what I love about the team,” she said. “Obviously we came short today, but we got some players in who normally don’t get to play. They scored, and it honestly was fun since this is a game that (doesn’t matter in the standings).”

That rings particularly true for a senior like Molly Wenner, who celebrated the team’s Senior Day with a deep, no-doubt-about-it 3-pointer in the final seconds.

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022322.S.BP.BSUWBB Molly Wenner.JPG
Bemidji State senior Molly Wenner (10) defends on the perimeter during the second half against No. 16 St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji State honored seven seniors in all -- Brooklyn Bachmann, Coley Rezabek, Taylor Vold, Trinity Yoder, Sydney Zerr, Wenner and Wolhowe -- the program’s largest graduating class on record.

Heittola finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Bachmann had 14 points and seven boards. Tori Wortz and Nikki Kilboten led the SCSU cause with 26 and 16 points, respectively.

Bemidji State will host its first playoff game since 2004 with Wednesday’s opening round of the NSIC Tournament. The third-seeded Beavers meet sixth-seeded Winona State at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the BSU Gymnasium.

St. Cloud State 67, Bemidji State 57

SCSU 22 12 17 16 -- 67

BSU 14 13 17 13 -- 57

ST. CLOUD STATE (21-3, 19-2 NSIC) -- T. Wortz 26, Kilboten 16, Evans 9, Theis 7, Navratil 5, Peterson 4. Totals: 29-60 FGs, 8-15 3-pt. FGs, 1-4 FTs.

BEMIDJI STATE (13-12, 11-10 NSIC) -- Heittola 18, Bachmann 14, Yoder 8, Zerr 6, Rezabek 5, Bott 3, Wenner 3. Totals: 23-50 FGs, 6-19 3-pt. FGs, 5-7 FTs.

022322.S.BP.BSUWBB Sydney Zerr.JPG
Bemidji State senior Sydney Zerr (20) looks to pass the ball in the first half against No. 16 St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

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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