After keeping pace throughout the first half with Willmar’s impressive scoring surge, Bemidji boys basketball failed to keep up during the second half in a 76-69 road loss on Friday.
The post was where Bemidji produced the brunt of its scoring push. Gavin Luksik tallied several early buckets, including an and-one finish for what ended up being Bemidji’s lone trip to the free throw line in the first half.
Scoring was necessary early for the Lumberjacks, as a pure shooting touch and strong offensive rebounding staked Willmar to an early 11-7 lead. Isaac Severts displayed his wide range of scoring abilities with a strong drive to the basket later in the half as Bemidji stayed close.
The Lumberjacks’ best stretch of play came just beyond the middle portion of the first half. Matt Arel dropped in a corner triple, while James Williams took advantage of a quickening pace to drive inside for a tough layup.
Bemidji built a 34-29 lead in the latter stages of the first, but Willmar used an 8-0 run to retake the lead before a buzzer-beating jumper ensured a 40-36 halftime advantage for the hosts.
Much of the Lumberjacks’ second half was spent playing catch up, going down by as many as 10 on separate occasions midway through the half. After struggling for drawing fouls in the first half however, Bemidji used a parade of free throws from Luksik and Khai Branham to start to pull back into touching distance.
Luksik kept up his scoring inside not long after with a rare Bemidji field goal that trimmed the deficit to just one.
Leading 61-60, Willmar answered with back-to-back threes to extend the lead back out to seven. Severts was able to draw Bemidji back to within five with a quick bucket at the other end of the floor.
After coming up with stops and surviving several missed Cardinal free throws, the Lumberjacks failed to cash in at the other end. Three-point shooting returned very late with a pair of makes, but both came with the game slipping out of reach.
Luksik led Bemidji with 22 points, while Severts added 14 before both players fouled out in the late stages. Branham supplied 12 points off the bench as well for the Lumberjacks, who drop to 3-3 with a second consecutive road loss.
Bemidji will stay on the road this Thursday for a game at Brainerd at 7:15pm.