BEMIDJI -- While winning just eight of 24 regular-season games the Brainerd Warriors boys' basketball team hasn't had many bounces go its way.
Until Tuesday in the Section 8, Class 4A opening round against the Bemidji Lumberjacks.
The fifth-seeded Warriors overcame a dreadful third quarter by storming back in the fourth to nip No. 4 Bemidji 53-52 in a ragged contest and advance to the semifinals at top-seeded Duluth East 7 p.m. Saturday.
With 8.3 seconds remaining Bemidji crossed midcourt and called time. When play resumed the Lumberjacks passed the ball to Paul Fenner, whose five-footer from the baseline bounced off the rim. Bemidji's Jaime Miramontes rebounded on the opposite baseline and his approximate 5-footer also bounced off the iron as time expired.
"We got a couple breaks, but our kids made those breaks," Warriors coach Brad Amundson said. "We played extremely hard. I'm so proud of these kids, and I'm not just proud because we won. We have had a lot of ups and downs this year. Everybody knows that, there's no secret about that, but these guys have persevered and have stayed with it."
Early in the second half it didn't appear the Warriors would be able to stay with Bemidji. The Lumberjacks overcame a 24-20 halftime deficit by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter. In all, they outscored Brainerd 16-4 in the third to seize a 36-28 lead.
The Lumberjacks were energized by Fenner, a 6-foot-5 senior, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the period.
"The third quarter was how we have played at times this year, and the beginning of the fourth was how we have played at times this year," Bemidji coach Garry Grewe said. "We were very inconsistent, and that hurt us."
The Warriors hurt Bemidji in the final period by hitting nine of 12 field goals, including 4 of 5 from three-point land, and by outscoring the Lumberjacks 25-16. Derrick LaPointe provided much of the Warriors' inspiration, scoring all 10 of his points in the final period. Matt Means also was on fire in the final quarter with eight points, including two threes.
Means opened the last quarter with a three to bring Brainerd within 36-31. A Miramontes layup preceded a 13-point Brainerd run. Mike Zauhar started by scoring on a rebound and burying a three. Means and LaPointe followed with threes and LaPointe swished two free throws.
Bemidji clawed back within the final score by making a trio of threes in a minute but the Warriors were not to be denied.
"We were a little bit worried," LaPointe said. "We knew we needed to come together. We have had trouble putting together a full game this year, but we got it done when we needed to."
LaPointe helped Brainerd get the job done by making 3 of 4 field-goal attempts and 3 of 4 free throws. The 5-11 senior was all over the floor, scrambling for loose balls and slashing to the basket.
"Derrick made some clutch free throws, and knocked down a three-pointer," Amundson said. "You could see it in his eyes, he shot it to make it. That's what it's all about. It's tournament time. You've got to come with a little bit different frame of mind. I thought every one of our guys was ready to go."
A fourth-quarter switch aided the Warriors offensively.
"We put Mike inside and Matt outside," Amundson said. "What that did was give us a little more organization on the outside. I thought Matt did a good job spreading the ball around, and moving the ball, and Mike did a nice job posting up. Dan Karlgaard was outstanding at the point, and in his defensive play, and Joe Morgan was outstanding on the defensive end."
Zauhar finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists to lead Brainerd, which won despite shooting 38 percent from the field. Means finished with 12 points and four assists.
Brainerd 11 13 4 25 -- 53
Bemidji 10 10 16 16 -- 52
Dan Karlgaard 7, Joe Morgan 3, Mike Zauhar 14, Justin Heitkamp 5, Matt Means 12, Derrick LaPointe 10, Jorgen Hartje 2. Team totals: FG 17-45 (38 percent), FT 13-18 (72 percent). Overall -- 9-16. Next game: 7 p.m. Saturday at Duluth East in section semifinals.
Jaime Miramontes 10, Darren Caspers 9, Jason Fairchild 6, Luke Rasmus 9, Paul Fenner 18. Team totals: FG 19-49 (39 percent), FT 9-11 (82 percent). Overall -- Finish 9-14.
3-point baskets -- Brd 6-19 (Karlgaard, Zauhar, Heitkamp, Means 2, LaPointe), Bem 5-15 (Caspers 3, Fairchild, Rasmus). Rebounds -- Brd 26 (Zauhar 7), Bem 29 (Fenner 5). Turnovers -- Brd 17, Bem 19. Total fouls -- Brd 15, Bem 20. Fouled out -- Caspers. Assists -- Brd 16 (Means 4, Zauhar 3, Heitkamp 3). Steals -- Brd 3. Blocks -- Heitkamp.
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