BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Freshman Lance Rongstad (G/F, Eleva, Wis.) dropped a career-high 29 and senior guard Seth Haake (Eden Prairie, Minn.), playing in his final game at the BSU Gymnasium, scored 20 as the Bemidji State University men’s basketball team closed the home portion of the 2009-10 season with a battle against Winona State University, prevailing victorious 88-86. The win makes four in a row for the Beavers and a season sweep of the Warriors. The last time BSU swept WSU in a season was 2003-04. The Beavers needed overtime to down the Warriors in Winona, Dec, 12, winning that game 88-87.
“The guys played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts,” said head coach Matt Bowen. “We are playing our best basketball at the end of the year. It has been really fun to watch. We got the line, got it inside and made enough 3’s to make it interesting. We’re still n the hunt for the playoffs mathematically, so we’ll just keep winning and see what happens.”
“It’s great going out with a win,” Haake said. “I’ve had some great memories in this building. We played strong, executed the game plan, went out and had fun and everything worked out.”
The Beavers (11-14, 7-11 NSIC) won the battle of the two best free throw shooting teams in the conference, going 33-of-38 (86.8%) from the line, which is almost 10 percent better than their season average of 76.7 percent heading into the contest. WSU (17-8 overall and 11-7 NSIC), who was shooting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe heading into the game, shot 14-of-23 (60.9%) in the game and 11-of-20 (55%) in the second half. Free throws were a key difference in the game that went right down to the wire. Rongstad had a career-high in free throws made and attempted, going 13-of-15.
The Warriors shot better from the field (50%-49%) and from beyond the arc (41.4%-38.5%), but the young BSU squad didn’t flinch, holding a lead for all but 43 seconds of the game. The tip-off was a battle that set the tone for the rest of the game. WSU found the ball to start and made its first shot to take a 2-0 lead. Haake responded with a 3-point dagger that gave BSU the one-point lead, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game. Haake made it 5-2, then Rongstad knocked-down a 3-pointer to give BSU an early 8-2 lead. A 5-0 run by the Warriors made it a one-point game, then the two teams traded hoops over the next six minutes, settling to a 17-16 score with 10:35 on the clock. BSU then rattled-off nine unanswered points to take a 26-16 lead with 7:18 left in the half. BSU got scoring from four different players in the run. The Warriors chipped-away at the deficit and found themselves down 30-27 with 3:19 remaining. The Beavers responded with a 6-2 run to close the first 20 minutes and held a 36-29 lead and the momentum heading into the locker room.
The Beavers kept their feet on the gas pedal to start the second half, tying their largest lead of the contest at 56-46 with 13:40 remaining in regulation. WSU then realized how bad a loss would be at this point of the season and went on a 15-6 run over 4:25 to cut the deficit to one at 62-61. Haake wasn’t going to let his final home game slip away and converted an old school 3-point play to give BSU the 65-61 lead with 8:08 remaining. Then Rongstad followed with a deep 3-pointer to put BSU up seven. The Beavers were able to maintain at least a five-point lead until WSU made it a two-point deficit with 3:37 remaining at the score of 74-72. Then began the free throw show, as Rongstad started it making four from the charity stripe to give BSU the six point lead at 78-72 with 2:07 left. The Beavers were able to keep it to a two possession game with free throws, making 14-of-18 in the final 2:31, while WSU was 4-of-9 in the final 43 seconds. Winona State kept coming and scoring to make it a one-possession game, but BSU just kept dropping free throws. WSU’s Ben Fischer scored a desperation 3-pointer with 11 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to one. Then freshman Burke Lendl (F, St. Michael, Minn.) was fouled with six ticks on the clock. He made the first, but missed the second. Rongstad then hustled for the loose rebound, grabbing the ball as he was going out of bounds and then spiked it off a WSU player like he had just scored a touchdown at Chet Anderson Stadium, keeping the ball on BSU’s end. He was fouled on the in-bounds play and then only made one of two shots, giving the home team a 88-85 lead with three seconds left. Fischer was put to the line with two seconds left and two shots. He made the first, but then missed the second. After a scrum, WSU came-up with the ball and was again fouled with just four tenths of a second on the clock, giving them a chance to knot the game with two free throws. They missed the first, forcing them to try and get a rebound off the second. They tried to convert the play, but was called for a lane violation and the game ended with a deep pass to Rongstad.
Haake ended his career at the BSU Gymnasium by fouling out of the contest. He scored 20 points in 26 minutes, on 7of-11 shooting. Rongstad added seven rebounds and two key blocks down the stretch. Junior forward Patrick Cassidy (St. Paul, Minn.) scored nine points and added nine rebounds, four on the offensive end. He also had four assists. Sophomore Bryce Tesdahl (G, Crosby, Minn.) played every minute of the game, scoring 14 points, while adding eight assists and four rebounds. Lendl had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Beavers finish the season Feb. 24 at University of Minnesota Duluth and Feb. 27 at Wayne State College.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).