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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Halftime adjustments save Jacks in 52-41 struggle

“Right now… we’re flowing off our defense instead of trying to defend off our offense. That’s the way I’d rather have our team play," BHS head coach Steve Schreiber said.

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Bemidji junior Jackie Johnson (13) shoots the ball during Tuesday's game against St. Cloud Tech at Bemidji High School. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- Although they largely crawled through the first half and then again to the finish line, the Bemidji High School girls basketball team wasn’t even on the court when it gained the upper hand.

“We took a deep breath and stayed in control,” junior guard Jackie Johnson said. “I think we lost it for a little bit in the first half, but at halftime, we fixed things and it came together.”

The anatomy of a 52-41 win inside the BHS Gymnasium can be traced back inside the locker room, where the Lumberjacks had to work through what went wrong in a poor-shooting first half.

“With the way we’re playing our half-court defense right now, I went into the locker room confident that we’d come out and shots would start to fall,” Bemidji head coach Steve Schreiber said. “We’re too good of shooters for them not to fall.”

The Jacks even came back onto the floor a bit early, allowing for more shootaround time to find a rhythm. And they reaped the rewards soon after.

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Bemidji senior Emily Wade passes the ball during Tuesday's game against St. Cloud Tech at Bemidji High School. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

BHS (4-3) first leaned on its defense in the opening half, generating deflections and defensive rebounds but still going 9 minutes, 26 seconds without making a field goal on the offensive end. Bemidji fell into an 18-11 hole and, despite holding the Tigers (0-8) without a point for a 6:26 span to tie at 18-all, still trailed 23-20 at halftime.

Yet their perseverance -- plus a little faith -- paid off.

“We walked into the coaches’ room at halftime, and everyone was like, ‘I’m not shooting anymore. My shots are not going in,’” Johnson said. “We said, ‘No, guys, we need to keep shooting. They’re going to fall eventually.’ And then it did.”

Johnson swished an early 3-pointer, Bemidji’s first of the game, for a 26-25 edge and the team’s first lead since the opening basket. Beth Botle rattled in a corner triple the next time down the court, finishing a 9-0 run as St. Cloud Tech endured another six-minute scoreless spell.

“With the way that we can play half-court defense, we knew that we would hold them to a low total,” Schreiber said. “Right now… we’re flowing off our defense instead of trying to defend off our offense. That’s the way I’d rather have our team play.”

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Lumberjack freshman Katelyn Milbrandt (20) guards Emma Borchert during a game against St. Cloud Tech on Tuesday at Bemidji High School. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

An Emily Wade and-one layup preceded another Johnson three -- this one when leading the fast break, dishing and relocating to an open corner for the shot -- before Alexie Tatro got in on the action with a 3-pointer of her own. Jody Pemberton and Bolte added inside scores for a 13-2 run that vaulted Bemidji ahead 42-29.

Although the Tigers inched back to 47-39 with three minutes to go, Wade had the dagger by turning a steal into an and-one circus layup -- her fourth old-fashioned three-point play of the game.

“We really tried to focus on our defense and not let them go on a run so that we could stay in the game,” Johnson said. “At halftime, (the coaches) gave us a bunch of time to shoot and find our shots again, and then they started falling more in the second half.”

Johnson and Wade carried the Lumberjacks offensively with 17 points apiece, while Bolte chipped in seven points to complement a gargantuan defensive effort.

Sarah Harries tallied a team-high 12 for the Tigers.

Bemidji will next meet St. Cloud Apollo at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, in St. Cloud.

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Bemidji 52, St. Cloud Tech 41

SCT 23 18 -- 41

BHS 20 32 -- 52

ST. CLOUD TECH (0-8) -- Harris 12, Finken 9, Benson 6, Christiansen 5, Vought 5, Imdieke 4.

BEMIDJI (4-3) -- Johnson 17, Wade 17, Bolte 7, Pemberton 5, Tatro 3, Huberty 2, Milbrandt 1.

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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