An 11-year wait for a victory at Detroit Lakes ended for Bemidji in an authoritative 67-51 triumph in a Section 8AAA girls basketball semifinal at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium on Tuesday. The win secures a return trip to Friday’s section championship for the Lumberjacks in a rematch of last year’s final defeat to Alexandria.
The victory was the first at Detroit Lakes for the Lumberjacks since Feb. 2010–a stretch of 11 consecutive losses to the Lakers and 12 total defeats on the floor of the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium, including the Section 8AAA championship against Alexandria last year.
Bemidji trailed just once in the game, going behind 5-4 in the opening four minutes during a slow shooting start for both teams. But just as it did in the quarterfinal victory against Sauk Rapids-Rice on Thursday, the Lumberjacks started to pick things up through outside shooting. Sophomore forward Beth Bolte bolstered the Lumberjacks’ lead to 9-5 with a three from straight on.
After a triple from the Lakers, Jackie Johnson responded with her own long range display that put the Lumberjacks back up by four.
The three from Johnson ignited an 11-0 run for the visitors, with the sharpshooting junior hitting again from beyond the arc before Jody Pemberton capped the surge with a tough basket flying down the lane.
Bemidji led by as many as a dozen in the latter stages of the first half, using extra passes to free up a layup for Emma Huberty.
The Lakers–Section 8AAA’s second seed–put together a 5-0 stretch going into halftime to trail 26-20 at the break. The lead dwindled down even further when Detroit Lakes pulled to within 30-26 early in the second half, but Johnson applied a deft touch through a foul to create separation again.
An exchange of threes by Bolte and the Lakers’ Grace Gunderson left Bemidji’s lead at 36-31 after the Lumberjacks had called for time. But two free throws from Emily Wade followed by a steal and score from the senior quickly put grew the margin to nine.
A major x-factor contribution for Bemidji came from freshman Katelyn Milbrandt, who scored six of her eight points in the second half beginning with a three-pointer on the wing.
The Lumberjacks continued to stave off Laker spurts with big makes from the perimeter, getting another from Lexi Tatro on an open look to keep the advantage around double figures.
Bemidji’s final major stamp on the game came in the last five minutes of play with the lead trimmed down to 51-42. Two more Wade free throws sent the lead back to double figures before Bolte and Wade combined on two scintillating handoffs between a layup from DL’s Alex Bettcher to climb the advantage up to 57-44.
Jacee Hauser’s triple for the Lakers closed the gap to 10 for a moment, but a parade of free throws from Bemidji–including the latter makes of a stretch of 12 consecutive made free throws for Wade–put the game beyond reach.
Wade–who was named a Class AAA All-State honorable mention selection earlier this week–finished with a season-high 22 points to lead all in scoring, while Johnson posted 18 for the Lumberjacks. Hauser tallied 14 points for Detroit Lakes, joined in double figures by Bettcher’s 12. Bemidji was also boosted by a turnover tally of just eight on offense for the night.
The Lumberjacks improve to 10-10 and will meet #1 Alexandria–a 50-30 winner against #4 Sartell-St. Stephen in the other semifinal–in a title-game rematch of the Cardinals’ 63-51 victory in last season’s Section 8AAA championship.
With both Alexandria’s girls and boys basketball teams hosting Section championship games on the same day, gametime for the girls final has been slated for 6pm on Friday. Pregame will be at 5:30pm on KBUN-FM 104.5 and KBUN1 at kbunsportsradio.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Steve Schreiber: