GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bemidji plays ‘best game’ of season, falls to Duluth East in final moments
Trailing Duluth East on Thursday at the BHS Gymnasium, the Lumberjacks faced a stiff test coming back. But Bemidji started to clamp down defensively in the second half, quickly tying the game.
BEMIDJI – The Bemidji High School girls basketball team was on the ropes at halftime.
Trailing Duluth East 32-23 on Thursday at the BHS Gymnasium, the Lumberjacks faced a stiff test coming back against an offensively prolific Greyhounds team. But Bemidji started to clamp down defensively in the second half, quickly tying the game 37-37 before taking a 39-37 lead on Mya Vincent’s coast-to-coast layup.
The Jacks ultimately built a lead as large as six points, but Duluth East executed down the stretch and finished off a narrow 58-55 win.
“You couldn't ask for anything more,” BHS head coach Darin Schultz said. “We talked about being confident coming out. They made a run right before the end of the half, and then it was our turn to make a run. We came out and were very aggressive and confident. We battled and got ourselves up six and in a really good position, and had every chance late to win it.”
The Lumberjacks (6-10) built a 53-47 lead late in the final frame, capped by Josey LaValley’s 3-pointer off excellent ball movement. Schultz and his coaching staff celebrated jubilantly on the sideline, as did the Jacks’ players.
But the Greyhounds (11-7) responded after a timeout, notching three consecutive close-range field goals – plus a foul on the final one – to grab a 54-53 advantage.
They never trailed again, and Katey Milbrandt’s desperation corner three in the final seconds sailed long for Bemidji.
“Absolutely, we want to finish it off,” Schultz said. “But the biggest thing is, we talk to our girls all the time, basketball is a game of runs. We're going to make a run, teams often are going to counter with a run, and how are we going to respond to that? Even when they were up late, we executed our defensive game plan in the press to get the ball back and, even in the last two possessions, have a chance to win it or tie it.
“The score doesn't end up in a win, but in my opinion, that was our best game we played all season. And if we continue to play like that on a nightly basis, things are going to start turning around when it comes to the wins and losses.”
The Jacks had plenty of positives to pull from their effort on Thursday, including balanced scoring from a number of players. Beth Bolte led the way with 17 points, including four 3-pointers. Gracee Bieber worked the post to score 13, and Vincent blurred her way into the lane and landed some creative finishes to compile 11. LaValley added eight points on two threes, and Milbrandt made two 3-pointers to pick up six points.
“That is such a benefit for us if we can get (Mya) going downhill,” Schultz said. “But we had to get stops and rebounds to do that. And we did that in the second half, which gave us some scoring opportunities with Mya getting out in transition. She was really good tonight.
“Beth was (efficient) from the 3-point line. And Josey came in and hit some threes, and we had a lot of girls that were doing other things on the defensive end. So all in all, I felt like we played our best game of the season. We just didn't come away with the win.”
Bemidji returns to the court to face Hibbing at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, back at the BHS gym.
Duluth East 58, Bemidji 55
DE 32 26 -- 58
BHS 23 32 -- 55
DULUTH EAST -- Fuller 13, Guenther 13, Zwak 12, Hagen 11, Kuettel 8, Winesett 1.
BEMIDJI -- Bolte 17, Bieber 13, Vincent 11, LaValley 8, Milbrandt 6.