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BOYS BASKETBALL: Bemidji bursts past big deficit, races off with 64-50 win

The Lumberjacks dug deep and flipped a 14-point deficit into a 14-point win, topping Sartell-St. Stephen 64-50 on Friday for a season-opening victory inside the BHS Gymnasium.

120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Isaac Severts dunk.JPG
Bemidji senior Isaac Severts dunks the ball on a fast break in the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Gut-check moments usually wait until March. Or at least until the home stretch.

But the Bemidji High School boys basketball team got one 10 minutes into game No. 1.

“We were talking a lot about responding to adversity prior to the game,” head coach Steve Thompson said. “The boys did a great job of responding at that moment, when we needed them to. A number of different guys did it in a number of different ways.”

The Lumberjacks dug deep and flipped a 14-point deficit into a 14-point win, topping Sartell-St. Stephen 64-50 on Friday for a season-opening victory inside the BHS Gymnasium.

“It shows that we have a lot of capability, and we can beat any team we want,” senior Dan Clusiau said of the turnaround. “(We) believe in each other and trust each other.”

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120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Dan Clusiau.JPG
Bemidji senior Dan Clusiau dribbles with the ball in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji put itself in an early hole, forcing 1-on-1 drives as the Sabres reeled off a 14-0 run in the opening act of the season. A 7-7 tie spiraled into a 21-7 Lumberjack deficit midway through the first half.

But BHS rallied the troops, putting up the next 11 points to give itself a chance. Clusiau sparked it with a steal that he converted into a fast-break layup, Matthew Matheney added a big 3-pointer, and Ethan Biehn’s pull-up jumper capped the spurt in two minutes’ time.

But that wasn’t all. Trailing 30-22 with 1:30 left before halftime, Bemidji scored nine straight off threes from Isaac Severts, Jaxon Boschee and Matheney. In an instant, the Jacks carried a feel-good 31-30 lead into the break.

“We were playing a little out of control, at times, in the first half offensively,” Thompson said. “We defended really well to close the half, and then the shots started falling. That’s how you go on runs.”

120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Matthew Matheney.JPG
Bemidji senior Matthew Matheney makes a 3-pointer in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Much like the poise it showed while down double digits, BHS played with composure when protecting a slim edge for the next chunk of the night. In the opening nine minutes of the second half, all but 1:48 was played within a single possession. And Bemidji never surrendered the lead.

From there, the Lumberjacks exploded to run away with the victory. Biehn, Clusiau and Severts all scored as part of an 8-0 run that pushed the advantage into double digits for the first time at 52-42, and a pair of Biehn free throws stretched the lead to a game-high 18 in the closing minutes.

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Bemidji seniors Dawson Lish (13) and Isaac Severts (15) high-five after Lish converted an and-one basket in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

But the knockout punch came seconds prior. Severts stole a ball at center court and then soared toward the rim, slamming down a high-flying, two-handed dunk -- a frequent fan favorite that’s seemingly now included in the price of admission.

“Thompson’s been saying that we can run the court because we’re athletic,” Clusiau said. “It was rough at the start, (it being our) first game, so once we got under control, I felt like we played really well.”

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Severts finished with a game-high 20 points and Biehn added 16, yet the win felt like a balanced effort all around for the Jacks. Brady Husman (12 points) and Parker Knutson (10) reached double figures for the Sabres (0-1).

BHS will now take its show on the road for a 7:15 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Brainerd. And Bemidji will hope to carry over Friday’s steadiness with them.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors,” Thompson said. “You got to see that at the end of the game. They were able to close it out with a lot of poise and patience. I credit that to their experience.”

Bemidji 64, Sartell-St. Stephen 50

SSS 30 20 -- 50

BHS 31 33 -- 64

SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN -- Husman 12, Knutson 10, A. Mahowald 7, Simones 7, W. Mahowald 4, Schulte 4, Terhune 4, Durrwatcher 2.

BEMIDJI -- Severts 20, Biehn 16, Matheney 9, Lish 8, Clusiau 6, Boschee 3, Yeung 2.

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120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Ethan Biehn.JPG
Bemidji senior Ethan Biehn shoots a 3-pointer in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Quinten Yeung.JPG
Bemidji senior Quinten Yeung (5) high-fives teammates while being announced as a starter before a game against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
120722.S.BP.BHSBBB Isaac Severts 2.JPG
Bemidji senior Isaac Severts (15) tries to make a move in the post during the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at the BHS 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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