#6 Bemidji mounted a comeback from 15 points down in the first half to take the lead, but scored just two points in the final eight minutes of play to fall to a 56-47 defeat at #3 Sartell-St. Stephen in a Section 8AAA boys basketball quarterfinal on Friday.
Faced with a hostile crowd in a true road playoff game for the first time in five years, the Lumberjacks started solidly with three pointers from Isaac Severts and Sam Wilson that jumpstarted a 6-5 advantage.
The landscape of the game changed dramatically over the next five minutes, with Sartell embarking on a 15-0 run to explode to a 20-6 lead that later grew as large as 23-8. Much of the scoring came from long range and off turnovers committed by Bemidji against a full-court, 1-2-2 zone from the Sabres.
Tasked with trimming the deficit down going into halftime, the Lumberjacks leaned heavily on the inside scoring of Gavin Luksik. The junior tallied 13 of his team-high 14 points in the first half, as Bemidji got back within single digits on multiple occasions before falling behind 36-23 at halftime.
In need of a spark in the second half, the Lumberjacks got one early from Severts after the sophomore slammed a two-handed dunk in transition off a steal at center court.
While he helped chip into the deficit with his offense, Severts also came up with big plays on defense thanks to multiple steals and blocks on the interior as well.
The Lumberjacks slowly started to trim into the deficit, with a floater from James Williams cutting the gap down to single digits.
In the ensuing minutes, Bemidji embarked on a 10-0 run to go from trailing 40-32 to leading by a pair. Matt Arel connected on a three early in the run to pull Bemidji within five, while Khai Branham capped the push with a triple to give the visitors the lead.
Arel stayed hot a few possessions later, answering an alley-oop from the Sabres’ Mason Lund with a three-point jumper that put Bemidji up 45-42.
While Sartell had started the second half cold with just six points over an 11-minute stretch, it was Bemidji that would go silent on offense during the final eight minutes of the game. Beginning with a 4-point play from Gus Gunderson, Sartell outscored Bemidji 14-2 to close out the game, as only a Williams floater netted points for the Lumberjacks on the way to defeat.
In addition to Luksik’s 14 points, Severts tallied 11 while battling foul trouble in the second half while Arel posted eight.
Bemidji’s season concludes with a 6-11 overall record, and the graduation of five seniors from the program.