Bemidji gets its flow back with fluid offensive performance, 9 Jacks score

Jan. 11—BEMIDJI — The Bemidji High School girls basketball team had plenty of options to find offense on Thursday night at the BHS Gymnasium.

Seeking to snap a two-game losing streak, the Lumberjacks relied on a number of players against Moorhead, stretching the Spuds out with nine different scorers to put forth a balanced, fluid effort that resulted in a 61-50 win.

"Tonight, everybody stepped up and hit a couple of shots and did a lot of things on defense," said BHS head coach Darin Schultz. "It was just a well-rounded game. We put two halves together tonight, and we really needed it against a section opponent. Can't be happier ending the week on a win against Moorhead."

The Jacks (7-6) found scoring from several sources, and they needed it after prolific forward Clara Bieber hit the bench early with two fouls. Katey Milbrandt and Karley LaZella also battled foul trouble, yet Bemidji's five on the floor continued to play well regardless of who they were. That gave the key trio a chance to return and contribute, and they still finished as the Lumberjacks' top three scorers.

"We had players come in and play longer minutes than they're used to, and they did an excellent job of holding down what we were doing," Schultz said. "The girls who came in, they weren't afraid to shoot the basketball. They shot with confidence, they played with confidence."

"It was awesome," Milbrandt added. "We were working together as a team. We were kind of struggling with that (on Tuesday against Fergus Falls). We weren't making our shots. We weren't really working together. But today, we were calm. We were collected, and we all just came together and worked as a team."

BHS trailed the Otters by 18 at halftime of Tuesday's game yet rallied to within two points by the final buzzer. That momentum carried over to Thursday, and the Jacks never let Moorhead get within fewer than seven points in the second half.

"We were able to navigate what they were doing (defensively)," Schultz said. "I'm just really proud of our team and how we responded after the last couple games. We had a tough loss on Saturday against Esko, really kind of a heartbreaker against Fergus on Tuesday. But our girls, credit to them. They stuck with it. They kept fighting. We played together tonight, and I'm really proud of them."

LaZella's emergence in the post has been key for Bemidji as well. The 6-foot-3 freshman center has started to play a more substantial role for the Lumberjacks with each passing contest, giving them an anchor down low that they previously lacked.

"She has been a huge addition to our team," Milbrandt said. "I mean, she's 6-3. And when we see her in the post, she can go to work. She can get to the basket, and she can make her shots."

"She's really coming into her own," Schultz added. "You can't teach 6-3, and every team that goes against her, it's a challenge. She's strong, she's physical, she has great touch around the rim. Our girls do a tremendous job of finding her when she's open underneath."

LaZella's presence has also opened things up for Bieber and Milbrandt, who frequently struggled to find space to work earlier this season.

"It makes a big difference," Schultz said.

Opening up space outside the paint gives Milbrandt room to drive toward contact, a strength of her game that has been accentuated by LaZella's dominance in the restricted area.

"I just kind of feel it," said Milbrandt of determining when to drive. "When I see the girl in help isn't really looking, I'm like, 'Alright, this is my time to go. I can get past my one girl and I can get to the hoop.' Or I can get to the hoop and I can look for my outside shooters. And when the shot clock is going down, you've just got to go."

Moving forward, Schultz is thrilled to have the opportunity to juggle multiple lineups and find different offensive solutions to complement the Jacks' excellent defense.

"For us, we're allowed to play kind of two styles of basketball," he said. "We can play with a post underneath, and then we have the ability to play up and down with some fast guards and posts too. So we're a tough matchup for teams. They have to plan for a lot. We're really coming into our own as a team, and I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring."

Bemidji 61, Moorhead 50

MHD 22 28 — 50

BHS 29 32 — 61

BEMIDJI — Milbrandt 15, Bieber 14, LaZella 8, Thompson 7, Lish 6, LaDuke 3, Malterud 3, Pink 3, Snobl 2.

MOORHEAD — Swanson 15, MacAdams 9, Hagen 7, Marquardt 5, Horan 5, Dahl 3, Zimmerman 2.