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BOYS BASKETBALL: Missed shots, scoreless spell send Bemidji home in 8-4A quarterfinals

When a basketball team enters a scoring drought, it can be a frightening experience.

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The Lumberjacks gather on the court after a loss against Moorhead in the Section 8-4A quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- When a basketball team enters a scoring drought, it can be a frightening experience.

If the dry spell persists for nearly a quarter of game action, though, that becomes a bigger problem. That was the malady that befell the third-seeded Bemidji High School boys basketball team during the Section 8-4A quarterfinals on Tuesday at the BHS Gymnasium.

With 8:05 left in the first half, sixth-seeded Moorhead called a timeout with the Lumberjacks leading 14-13. The Jacks only scored one point the rest of the half, while Moorhead scored 14 in that span and ultimately surged to a 55-41 win, ending Bemidji’s season.

“It's always hard when the season ends,” BHS head coach Steve Thompson said. “You always want one more week together, one more day together, one more game together, and the boys fought for that tonight. We just couldn't get enough shots to fall in order to make that happen. But the boys showed a lot of grit and a lot of resiliency tonight. And I'm just very proud of them for that.”

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Bemidji junior Isaac Severts (15) controls the ball in the first half against Moorhead in the Section 8-4A quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Lumberjacks especially struggled at the free-throw line, going 1-for-6 in the first half and 6-for-11 in the second. All told, they left 10 points on the board at the charity stripe.

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“Whether it was free throws or perimeter shots or layups, it was just one of those nights where it was tough,” Thompson said.

Making matters worse for the Jacks was Moorhead’s efficiency around the basket. The Spuds (15-12) poured in dunks and layups from the restricted circle, compounding Bemidji’s struggles to put up enough quality shots to counter.

“Moorhead has length to contest around on the inside, and they were doing a good job of even contesting on the perimeter,” Thompson said. “So credit to them for that.”

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Bemidji senior Kenley Vincent (31) shoots the ball in the first half against Moorhead in the Section 8-4A quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the BHS Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The lopsided loss brought an abrupt end to what was otherwise a rousingly successful season for BHS. The Lumberjacks finished the year with a record of 15-8 despite bumping up from Class 3A to 4A, the highest classification in the state. But that didn’t prevent Thompson and the Jacks’ seniors from taking the loss hard.

“These seniors are young men with great character and super committed to each other and to the program,” Thompson said. “They're going to be missed.”

Bemidji’s senior class consists of Caden Bolte, Khai Branham, Gavin Luksik, Kenley Vincent and Sam Wilson, the last of whom led the Jacks with 14 points on Tuesday. Though their careers on the court have now ended, Thompson sees them leaving a legacy that extends beyond just this season.

“They've shown everybody that you compete to the end,” Thompson said. “You play with grit, you play with toughness. That doesn't happen by chance. That's with hard work every day. And these guys work hard every day in preparation, and they come out and they compete hard every day. And the youth of our program is definitely going to be able to take that from them.”

Two of the Lumberjacks’ starters are juniors: forward Isaac Severts and guard Ethan Biehn. Severts is already one of Bemidji’s best players and was its second-leading scorer on Tuesday with 11 points. He and Biehn will carry the mantle forward next year.

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Jamal Dixon, Mekhi Elmore and Adam Jenkins were the co-leading scorers for Moorhead with 12 points each.

Moorhead 55, Bemidji 41

MHD 27 28 -- 55

BHS 15 26 -- 41

MOORHEAD (15-12) -- Dixon 12, Elmore 12, A. Jenkins 12, Zimmerman 11, Wachenheim 6, J. Jenkins 2.

BEMIDJI (15-8) -- Wilson 14, Severts 11, Luksik 9, Biehn 4, Vincent 2, Branham 1.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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