WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Beavers top CSP, reach conference semifinals in another historic step
Behind Trinity Myer and Rachael Heittola, the Beavers (10-5) will be back in the conference’s final four for the first time since 2004.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- In a season with so many milestones, is it really any surprise that the Bemidji State women’s basketball team found another to reach?
The Beavers made the latest step in a historic season-long march on Friday morning, defeating Concordia-St. Paul 71-70 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and advancing to the NSIC Tournament semifinals for just the second time ever.
“It means a lot, only being here for the second time in the semifinals,” junior Trinity Myer said. “But I don’t think that we’re going to necessarily play any different than we have before. We’re right where we want to be. We definitely earned being here.”
BSU had to hold its breath down to the wire, as Riley Wheatcraft’s late layup bounced off the rim, the miss ensuring a one-point win for the newcomers from the north country.
FINAL: @BSUBeaversWBB 71, Concordia-St. Paul 70.— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) February 26, 2021
The BSU defense holds, and for just the second time ever, Bemidji State reaches the NSIC Tournament semifinals. They got their behind Rachael Heittola’s hot start and Trinity Myer’s clutch finish. pic.twitter.com/gVyPbXnIAX
“Oh man, I could have just bawled the entire time. I could still be crying,” said Bemidji State head coach Chelsea DeVille, the North Division’s Coach of the Year. “I’m just so excited and happy. Seeing our kids, it’s such a high. This is why you coach, for moments like that.”
The Beavers (10-5) will be back in the conference’s final four for the first time since 2004. They’ve never reached the conference championship game, but they’ll have a chance to rewrite that storyline at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, against top-seeded Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs beat Sioux Falls 78-64 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“We did a nice job against Duluth, in our opinion, both times we played them,” DeVille said of the regular season, both road losses. “We need to make more shots than we did, and obviously we have a big challenge ahead. … We’ll be ready to go.”
On Friday, Myer and Rachael Heittola scripted the victory.
BSU got a dream start, using 10 points out of Heittola for a 17-7 lead in the opening 5:57. The Golden Bears (11-6) responded with an 8-0 run and were within 19-15 after one, yet Heittola kept the advantage at 25-19 early in the second quarter.
But she didn’t score the rest of the half, and CSP shot 10-for-16 in the quarter to force a 35-all tie going into the break.
Concordia-St. Paul had a strong third quarter, as well, but Myer scored 10 points in the frame to keep Bemidji State close. The deficit reached five, but Myer answered back with a layup, then took a charge, to help keep things within 57-56 entering the fourth.
And then, down 64-61 with five minutes left, the Beavers decided this was their game to take.
“I think it was just who wanted it more,” Myer said. “We found the grit within us to finish the game, especially in the last quarter, where it truly mattered.”
BSU scored eight straight points to jump ahead 69-64, capped by a Heittola bucket on the block off a deep entry pass from Myer with three minutes to go. The Golden Bears inched back within 71-70, then got a defensive stop with 6.8 seconds to go, but the potential game-winner didn’t fall, advancing Bemidji State to the semifinals.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, that last possession. But we pulled it out,” Myer said. “We’re just a big family. I think we’re all so happy for each other, and we’re proud of each other.”
Myer finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. Heittola had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, and Taylor Vold tallied 11 points for the Beavers, as well. CSP got four scorers in double figures, led by Sidney Wentland’s 16.
“(This win) means everything moving forward,” DeVille said. “However this year ends, we’ve taken so many strides and set a standard that we need to continue.”
No. 3 Bemidji State 71, No. 2 Concordia-St. Paul 70
BSU 19 16 21 15 -- 71
CSP 15 20 22 13 -- 70
BEMIDJI STATE (10-5) -- Myer 22, Heittola 20, Vold 11, DuBois 8, Bachmann 7, Zerr 3, Rezabek 0, Wolhowe 0. Totals: 24-63 FGs, 18-21 FTs, 71.
CONCORDIA-ST. PAUL (11-6) -- Wentland 16, Becher 14, Wheatcraft 11, M. DuBois 10, Schultz 8, Schaub 5, Lemke 4, Zgutowicz 2, Hanson 0, Johnson 0, Kuma 0. Totals: 28-62 FGs, 11-16 FTs, 70.