GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bemidji defends playoff positioning with 55-44 win

The Lumberjacks all but locked up Section 8-3A's No. 3 seed, preventing Sartell-St. Stephen from supplanting themselves in front of Bemidji

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Bemidji senior Emily Wade (3) flies to the hoop in the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- With playoff positioning at stake, Thursday night’s game was anything but run-of-the-mill to the Bemidji High School girls basketball team.

“We went into it like this was a playoff game,” BHS head coach Steve Schreiber said. “This was a big game for us. We know, to get to state, we have to go through Alex. But we’d rather do that in the championship game than have to see them in the second round.”

The Lumberjacks all but locked up Section 8-3A's No. 3 seed, beating Sartell-St. Stephen 55-44 inside the BHS Gymnasium and preventing the Sabres from supplanting themselves in front of Bemidji. In turn, the Jacks forged a playoff path that can’t converge with section frontrunner Alexandria’s until the championship.

“We knew this was a really important game because of sections, so we really just left it all out there,” senior Emily Wade said. “Our goal was to do really good and play well as a team.”


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Bemidji junior Jackie Johnson (13) scores in the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

That focus played out on the defensive end, where BHS (8-8) held Sartell-St. Stephen (7-11) without a field goal for an 8:02 stretch during the first half.

Bemidji opened the night on a 10-2 surge, and when the Sabres scored the next five, the Lumberjack defense clamped down and held them to a lone free throw for the ensuing eight minutes -- including a 6:35 span without a point.

“(I liked) the ability to switch between all of our defenses,” Schreiber said. “I didn’t feel like we had one hiccup tonight. And we switched a lot. … The fact that they’re willing to step up and play a couple different zones, as well, has really helped us over the past three games.”

“We definitely put a lot of effort in,” Wade added. “That was one thing we focused on in practice. We needed to work on our defense more. One struggle we had was boxing out, but once we figured that out, it worked really well for us.”

BHS had a 20-8 lead before the Sabres finally found the basket again, but Jody Pemberton had the hot hand and countered the visitors’ newfound attack. She finished the first half with 10 points, including the final bucket of the frame by snatching the ball clean from a defensive rebounder and laying it in for a 28-17 score.

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Bemidji junior Jody Pemberton (12) attempts a 3-pointer in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)


“Jody has really come on these last three games,” Schreiber said. “That’s what we want from her. … We get double-digits out of her on top of her leading the offense and the assists that we have from her, it’s just super important.”

The lead expanded to 20 on a Wade layup, making it 46-26 with nine minutes remaining. Soon after, when Sartell-St. Stephen cut it back to 15, Wade assisted Marlee Bieber and then took one herself on back-to-back transition layups.

“We all stepped up well and did really well,” Wade said. “This is the time when you want to start having your wins and playing your best ball. We’re really trying to do that.”

The Sabre offense finally started to find a groove when the game was out of reach in the closing moments. Down 19 with three minutes to go, Sartell-St. Stephen closed on a harmless 10-2 run to lessen the blow on the scoreboard. The Sabres’ 1-for-8 performance from the charity stripe over the final 1:06 kept the difference in double digits.

Wade finished with 16 points to lead all scorers, while Pemberton tallied 12. Courtney Snoberger had 11 points and was the lone double-figure scorer for Sartell-St. Stephen.

Bemidji will play its final road game of the regular season at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13, at Fergus Falls.

Bemidji 55, Sartell-St. Stephen 44


SSS 17 27 -- 44

BHS 28 27 -- 55

SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN (7-11) -- Snoberger 11, Driste 6, Swanson 6, DeMaine 5, Gainsforth 5, Larson 5, Crandall 3, Geiger 2, Turner 1.

BEMIDJI (8-8) -- Wade 16, Pemberton 12, Johnson 8, Tatro 6, Bieber 5, Bolte 5, Milbrandt 2, Peterson 1.

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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