Boys basketball: Bemidji sinks Perham with clutch free throws
The Bemidji High School boys basketball team nailed a bevy of clutch free throws to close out a 59-57 win over Perham on Tuesday night.
PERHAM – Bemidji High School boys basketball senior Dan Clusiau stepped up to the free-throw line with 10 seconds left, up by two. It was on him to make the two biggest shots of the night.
The Lumberjacks (12-7) knocked off Perham (16-3), Class AA's ninth-best team, according to Minnesota Basketball News. Bemidji's 59-57 win was bookended with Clusiau's clutch free throws.
"Just take a deep breath, focus and sink it, I guess. There's nothing you can really do in that moment other than that," Clusiau said on his approach at the line.
His freebies were two of several made by the Jacks in the final minute. BHS finished 7-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch to close out a two-point win.
"This is a great facility, a wonderful environment to test yourself in," Bemidji head coach Steve Thompson said. "To keep our poise and knock those free throws down in that stretch, it was huge. It's a good sign heading into this part of the year."
The Lumberjacks had to dig themselves out of an early hole. Perham dominated the opening seven minutes, jumping out to a 13-2 lead. BHS found a spark in the form of its star senior, Isaac Severts.
After Ethan Biehn stopped the bleeding with a pair of buckets, Severts scored on three consecutive possessions, including a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. He finished with a game-high 21 points.
"Isaac Severts happened," Steve Thompson said on how the Jacks flipped the momentum. "In that stretch he just made plays. He made big shots. He's a big-time player, and we needed somebody to do something there, and he was the one making plays for us."
Bemidji took its first lead late in the half. Biehn tied the game before Severts put the Lumberjacks in front with a put-back score. Quinten Yeung's second transition dunk of the first half increased the lead to 27-23.
BHS kept rolling into the second frame, outscoring Perham 16-4 to start the half. Clusiau hit a 3-pointer before Jaxon Boschee's and-one conversion gave the Lumberjacks their most significant advantage of the night at 43-30.
"I feel like our transition game got much better," Clusiau said. "Our talking and communication on defense all came together in that second half. That's why we went on that run."
"The boys wrote up on the board, 'first four minutes,'" Steve Thompson said. "They did that in their meeting prior to the coaches coming in. They wanted to go out there and play hard in the first four minutes (of the second half), and they wanted to win them, and they did."
The Yellowjackets got a jolt off the bench in the form of Ashton Detloff. He hit a 3-pointer, starting another 16-4 run, this time going in favor of Perham.
Alex Ohm pulled the Yellowjackets within a point of tying the game with 1:29 left. He picked Severts' pocket before draining a transition 3-pointer, chopping BHS' lead to 54-53. But the Jacks' poise at the free-throw line was the difference down the stretch.
"The boys call it a grind, and that's what it is," Steve Thompson said. "Every day in practice and in games, we have to come out and work. They've bought into that mantra. We're working, and we're earning things, and that feels good."
Perham’s Soren Anderson had 19 points on the night. Jacob Daniels, the Yellowjackets primary source of offense in the first half, finished with 14.
Bemidji ended the 2021-22 season with a 66-59 home loss against Perham. Tuesday night evened the score.
"For me it sticks," Steve Thompson said about remembering the late-season loss a year ago. "I can't speak for the boys about that. There's a lot of new players on the court as well. I don't know how they felt about it, but they knew we were coming into a hostile environment against a really good basketball team, and they rose to the challenge."
For Perham, Tuesday's loss marked its second in a row. After falling to Albany (17-1) 63-49 at the Winter Lakes Classic on Saturday at Alexandria Area High School, the Yellowjackets are at a crossroads entering Friday's home game against Class A's No. 3 team, Cherry (15-3).
Bemidji 59, Perham 57
BHS 27 32 – 59
PHS 26 31 – 57
BEMIDJI – Severts 21, Biehn 14, Clusiau 7, Yeung 6, Boschee 6, Lish 3, Lusik 2.
PERHAM – Anderson 19, Daniels 14, Thompson 10, Ohm 8, Aanenson 3, Detloff 3.