A 16-1 run that bridged the first and second halves propelled Alexandria to an insurmountable lead, leaving Bemidji runners-up to the Cardinals in the Section 8AAA girls basketball championship for a second straight season in a 67-53 defeat Friday at Alexandria Area High School.
The Lumberjacks opened the scoring on a skillful drive from senior guard Emily Wade, as the Class AAA All-State honorable mention worked inside for a banked finish off the backboard.
Sophomore Beth Bolte compiled an impressive nine points for Bemidji in the first half, using a combination of strong post scoring and her touch from beyond the three-point line.
The Cardinals answered at the other end with a three of their own as they built an eight-point advantage after a slow shooting start from both teams. On the ensuing possession, Wade stepped out beyond the arc to cash in on a triple of her own and trim the lead to 19-14.
Trailing 24-16 with five minutes remaining in the first half, the Lumberjacks tied the game after impressively putting together an 8-0 run that featured contributions from Bolte beyond the arc and both Jody Pemberton and Wade working inside around the basket.
Alexandria replied with back-to-back threes from Lilly Horn and Mataya Hoelscher that helped build a 30-24 advantage at halftime. The hot shooting carried into the second half, as the Cardinals added on another 10-1 burst that expanded the gap to 40-25.
Facing a hill to climb, the Lumberjacks got out in transition to find Bolte her final bucket of the evening before she would foul out with seven minutes remaining in the game.
With Alexandria starting to run in transition as well, the Lumberjacks saw the gap grow as large as 59-39 in the second half. Despite a concentrated effort from the Cardinals to neutralize guard Jackie Johnson–who did not score all evening–her fellow junior Pemberton took the opportunity to step up for a 16-point performance that featured several tough finishes in the paint.
Bemidji made one final surge to cut the deficit to 11 in the game’s waning minutes, as Katelyn Milbrandt banked in a three and Wade got a floater to go off a steal.
Ultimately, the Cardinals’ surge at halftime was too much to overcome as Bemidji fell to Alexandria in the 8AAA girls championship for the second consecutive season–the fourth title in five years for Alexandria.
Pemberton paced Bemidji with 16 points, while Bolte scored 12 and Wade dropped in 11. Lilly Horn tallied a game-high 20 points for Alexandria.
Bemidji concludes the season 10-11 and graduates four seniors in Emily Wade, Emma Huberty, Lydia Ryan, and Rylie Jones.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Steve Schreiber: