No. 3 Bemidji pulls away from No. 2 Detroit Lakes to advance to section championship game

Emily Wade and Jackie Johnson combine for 40 points in the Lumberjacks' win over the Lakers.

Bemidji head coach Stephen Schreiber celebrates with his starters, who watched the final minutes from the bench after creating a comfortable lead on the scoreboard in a Section 8AAA semifinal victory over Detroit Lakes Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium. Robert Williams / Tribune

No. 3 Bemidji took command early and got rid of a couple historical jinxes in defeating No. 2 Detroit Lakes 67-51 in the Section 8AAA girls basketball semifinal Tuesday, March 23 at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium.

Bemidji head coach Stephen Schreiber recorded his first coaching victory at The Ralph and the Lumberjacks were victorious on the Lakers’ floor for the first time since 2010.

“There is something about this building,” Schreiber said. “I talked to Alexandria’s coach and Fergus Falls’ coach. This is a really tough place to play. You guys pack it with your fans and the girls always show up here. We knew coming in - we lost earlier here. We knew we had to be spot on and play at the top of our game to get a win tonight and a win in this gym is extra special because it just doesn’t happen very often.”

Jackie Johnson (13) drives to the hoop for two of her 18 points during the second half of Bemidji's 67-51 Section 8AAA semifinal victory at Detroit Lakes Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune


The Jacks only trailed once in the game, 5-4 on a Sarah Tangen three-point basket in the early going.

Grace Gunderson got the Lakers to within a point trailing 9-8 after her field goal, but Bemidji responded with an 11-0 run to lead 20-8 on a Jody Pemberton left-handed hook shot in the paint.

Bemidji was strong shooting from outside and found ways to get inside the Laker defense for scores at the basket.

“We just call it rim running and earlier in the year we weren’t rim running well and weren’t really gelling as a team,” said Schreiber.

The Jacks graduated four starters last year and the fifth injured an ACL in the summer, compounding the group’s ability to come together right away this season.

The Lakers have employed steady movement on the offensive end all season, picking up the speed of plays as the year progressed. Tuesday night, Bemidji found a way to throw a wrench in the machine.

“They disrupted the flow and offensively they had a great plan too and when you’re hitting stuff that makes it hard,” Detroit Lakes head coach Rachel Johnson said. “Just being able to penetrate and finish around the rim and also having to guard the kick out because they’re going to finish their three-pointers too. It makes it a really difficult challenge for everyone to guard.”


Alex Bettcher (21) drives past the defense of Beth Bolte (23) during the second half of Tuesday's game. Bettcher finished with 12 points. Robert Williams / Tribune

Getting off to a slow start shooting and trying to find a flow offensively made the Lakers’ path to victory more difficult.

“It was a tough start,” said Johnson. “The ball was a little sticky and the shots weren’t falling. As the game progressed, the closer we got, we were almost over the hump and they would go and knock down a three and that just takes the wind out of your sails.”

The Lakers got into a groove late in the first half finishing off a 12-6 run to the halftime horn to go to the break down a half-dozen 26-20. DL freshman Helena Daggett hit a big three from the corner to finish off the run and send the Lakers to the locker room with needed momentum.

Jacee Hauser and Gunderson had big threes in the early going of the second half as DL kept pace and trailed 36-31 at the 13-minute mark.

Emily Wade (3) drives past Detroit Lakes' Alex Bettcher (21) on the way to a game-high 22 points to lead the Lumberjacks to the Section 8AAA championship game Tuesday, March, 23, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

Bemidji’s Emily Wade scored on back-to-back possessions getting to the rim and the foul line to extend the lead to seven. On the ensuing inbounds play, Schreiber sent his team into a full court press and Wade sniped a Laker pass and scored again to create a nine-point cushion in five seconds.


Alex Bettcher (21) drives past the defense of Beth Bolte (23) during the second half of Tuesday's game. Bettcher finished with 12 points. Robert Williams / Tribune

Ava Jones drained a three for Detroit Lakes, but Bemidji started to have answers at every turn beginning with an answer from the arc by Katelyn Milbrandt.

Hauser got to the line for two and got the Lakers within seven points at 10:28, but Alexie Tatro drained a three for Bemidji at the 10-minute mark for a double digit advantage 46-36.

The Jacks held a 10-point lead for most of the final nine minutes.

Detroit Lakes' leading scorer Jacee Hauser battles for a rebound with two Lumberjack defenders in the Section 8AAA semifinals Tuesday at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

Hauser pulled DL to within nine at 51-40 coming out of a melee under the Laker hoop to swish a fadeaway.


Bemidji employed a backdoor cut to Wade with excellent assists from Beth Bolte to get to the rim late and sealed the game shooting freebies in the double bonus.

Wade led all scorers with 22 points; Jackie Johnson had 18. Bolte and Milbrandt each scored 8 points.

Hauser paced the Lakers with 14 points. Alex Bettcher scored 12; Grace Gunderson added 8.

“Heck of a season,” said coach Johnson. “I just told them that their worth isn’t connected to what happens out here and thanked the seniors. We had some bumps early in the season but they really came together and that senior leadership was key in getting everyone to buy in. You could even see that tonight. It’s not the wins or losses that matter, that’s what we’re playing for, of course, but that’s not ultimately what matters.”

First-year Laker head coach Rachel Johnson finished off an excellent season winning 12 of 19 games and reaching the section semifinals with a group of seniors and a team that earned the respect of their opponents in 2021. Robert Williams / Tribune

The home team had won the last seven games in this series until Tuesday night. Bemidji (10-10) picked up only its sixth win in the past 22 games against Detroit Lakes since 2010.

Top-seeded Alexandria (16-4) defeated No. 4 Sartell-St. Stephen 50-30 in the other semifinal and will host the section championship game Friday, March 26. The Cardinals are the defending section champs.


“If we can take care of the basketball against them we’ll be okay,” Schreiber said. “I don’t think our girls are afraid of that game, they’re looking forward to it. We lost to them at their place and we had a lead for a good portion of that game. They were asking for one more game and now we get it. We’re excited.”

The Lakers end the season with an overall record of 12-7.

Section 8AAA girls basketball semifinal

No. 3 Bemidji 67, No. 2 Detroit Lakes 51

BEM 26 41 - 67

DET 20 31 - 51


BEM - Emily Wade 22, Jackie Johnson 18, Beth Bolte 8, Katelyn Milbrandt 8, Alexie Tatro 5, Emma Huberty 2, Jody Pemberton 2, Sage Zetah-Cornelius 2.

DET - Jacee Hauser 14, Alex Bettcher 12, Grace Gunderson 8, Sarah Tangen 5, Abby Larson 4, Helena Daggett 3, Ava Jones 3, Mya Anderson 2.

Read more stories by Robert Williams here .

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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