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When shots weren't falling, Bemidji's defense held down the fort to get back to .500

Jan. 9—BEMIDJI — Sometimes, teams take a while to get going offensively.

The Bemidji High School boys basketball team didn't score until there was 12:51 left in the first half on Tuesday against Grand Rapids. The Lumberjacks started 0 of 6 from the field in the first five minutes before Jaxon Boschee ripped a 3-pointer.

Fortunately for BHS, Boschee hit another triple to tie the game on the next possession. The Jacks held the Thunderhawks to just six points before they broke out of their slump to open the game.

Bemidji's toughness on the defensive end of the floor held down the fort until the offense woke up. Once it did, the Lumberjacks rolled to a 63-46 win.

"I'm really proud of the defensive effort tonight," head coach Steve Thompson said. "We did a lot of things to harass them and force turnovers. It just gave us some extra possession on a night when we weren't shooting very well."

BHS leaned on its 3-point shooting heavily in the first half. In fact, the Jacks didn't hit a 2-point shot until there was 4:41 left before halftime. Bemidji also went 2 for 5 from the free-throw line in the opening 18 minutes.

The Lumberjacks' up-and-down first half hit a low point with 6:05 left in the frame. Senior forward Braden Luksik left the game with an ankle injury.

Without one of its better players and team captains, BHS turned to its depth to pick up the pieces in the low post.

"I really liked what Dawson Oelrich did off the bench," Thompson said. "He did some really nice things on both ends of the floor for us. All the guys contributed a little bit here and there. Kobe Brown has been playing really well on the defensive end and attacking on offense. A lot of guys stepped up in different ways, but those two caught my eye tonight."

Oelrich provided a jolt on both ends of the floor in the first half. He took a charge in the paint before sinking two jumpers, kickstarting a 9-4 stretch to end the first half.

"I had to fill in (Luksik's) spot in the post position tonight, and the team really helped me with that," Oelrich said. "They gave me looks, and I grabbed some offensive rebounds. It's tough to lose a guy like that, but we all have to step up.

"When I come off the bench, my minutes are huge, right? Only five guys can play at a time, so you have to make them count."

The Lumberjacks blew the game wide open after the break. Boschee poured in 13 points in the latter 18 minutes, including a pair of 3-pointers and an and-one conversion in a 16-4 run to open the second half. The sophomore guard finished with a game-high 23 points.

"That kid can shoot," Oelrich said. "I've never seen anything like it. He's such a great part of this team. We're kind of out of words to describe him at this point."

Owen Frazer also ended in double figures with 12 points. Brown added seven as the Jacks (6-6) moved back to .500 for the first time this season.

"We got stops on defense and turned them into transition buckets," Oelrich said. "Some of them were and-ones, too. That's what got us going in the second half, and that opened things up for us."

Bemidji had a forgetful start to its 2023-24 season. The Lumberjacks started 0-4 and were outscored by an average of 15.7 points in those games. Then they played against the Thunderhawks (2-9).

On Dec. 14, BHS picked up a 55-51 win over Grand Rapids on the road. It was the Jacks' first win of the season and kicked off a 5-2 stretch that carried into the new year.

"You take a look at the picture from then until now, you'll see there's been a lot of growth in a lot of different areas, especially on the defensive end," Thompson said. "I'm proud of the way we're playing right now, and the way we work in practice is critical to that. These boys show up to practice every day ready to get a little bit better."

Bemidji 63, Grand Rapids 46

GR 19 27 — 46

BHS 24 39 — 63

BEMIDJI — Boschee 25, Frazer 12, Brown 7, Huseby 5, Riewer 5, Oelrich 4, Luksik 3, Sneide 2, Zellmann 2.

GRAND RAPIDS — Dauenbaugh 14, MacLeod-Carlson 10, Sutherland 8, Z. Roy 5, Johnson 4, Wegwerth 3, Cleveland 1, C. Roy 1.