BOYS BASKETBALL: Jacks’ big first-half run leads to convincing win over Otters
The Bemidji boys basketball team got a spark from Matt Matheney off the bench, who started a 25-3 run to end the first half with 11 consecutive points. BHS beat Fergus Falls 66-41.
Every player on the Bemidji High School boys basketball team has a role. Matt Matheney’s is knocking down big shots off the bench.
The senior checked in with the game knotted at 11-11 with under 10 minutes left in the first half. That was the last time it was tied. He hit a pair of three triples and added a layup, forcing the Otters to take a timeout. His 11 consecutive points birthed a 25-3 run to end the first half.
On the strength of that surge, the Lumberjacks breezed to a 66-41 win over Fergus Falls on Saturday at the BHS Gymnasium.
“It was huge for us,” BHS head coach Steve Thompson said of Matheney’s sharpshooting. “Matt is the kind of kid who puts in a ton of work. He’s always shooting the basketball. For him to have a moment like that, in a game where we really needed somebody to come out and spark us, he did it for us today. It was awesome.”
The Lumberjacks (13-8) got 22 points from their reserves, 13 coming from Matheney.
“It’s not really that I want the ball in my hands. My teammates want the ball in my hands,” Matheney said. “Ethan (Biehn) is always looking for me up the half court. I think he had like three assists in a row to me. I had a slow start to the year, but I’m finally starting to pick up what I knew I could do.”
Thompson also praised Matheney’s leadership off the bench.
“He’s a great teammate, and I think that’s the ultimate compliment,” he said. “For him to accept his role, and not only accept the role but live in the moment and make the plays, I’m super proud of him.”
“There’s so much talent on our team,” Matheney said. “I know I’m going to get in. I know I’m going to get my chances, and I’m going to do what I can.”
In the second half, the Otters (6-13) put the ball in the hands of their best player with the hope of going on a run. However, BHS limited sophomore Henry Bethel to just 11 points.
“We went to the zone at the end to try and make sure he stayed out of the lane,” Thompson said of slowing down Bethel. “It’s a collective effort defensively. There were times when he’s just so dynamic that he’s going to make plays. Overall, I thought we did a good job of neutralizing him.”
Fergus Falls cut its deficit to 15 with under 10 minutes left but didn’t draw any closer. Biehn finished with a game-high 21 points. Severts had 14 after a slow start offensively.
“We just needed to keep pushing,” Matheney said of the second-half approach. “We didn’t want to give them any hope of coming back. Keep pushing and take care of business.”
Thompson pulled all five starters with 1:45 left in regulation, something he didn’t have the luxury of doing over the last four games. Bemidji went through a gauntlet of a stretch, playing several ranked teams to within six points or fewer over its previous four contests. The most recent was a 79-73 road loss against Alexandria a night earlier.
“I talked to the boys after the game (on Friday) about responding after a tough night,” Thompson said. “When they can do it on back-to-back nights, it speaks volumes about their mental toughness and what they can do.”
Saturday was the Jacks’ first double-digit win since Jan. 27, a 68-50 victory against Thief River Falls at home.
“It feels great to beat a team like this again,” Matheney said. “When you struggle at times this season and lose close games, and coming off of a tough loss last night, it feels really good to do what we know we can do.”
Bemidji returns to the BHS Gymnasium at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, for a Section 8-4A battle against Moorhead.
Bemidji 66, Fergus Falls 41
FF 14 27 – 41
BHS 36 30 – 66
FERGUS FALLS – Bethel 11, Sternberg 9, Hirst 8, Knick 6, King 4, Johnson 3.
BEMIDJI – Biehn 21, Severts 14, Matheney 13, Boschee 9, Lish 6, Yeung 3.