Prep boys basketball: Menzel’s clutch 3 lifts Hermantown past Bemidji
The Hawks were led by 25 points from Blake Schmitz and 22 from Abe Soumis.
HERMANTOWN — Hermantown standouts Blake Schmitz and Abe Soumis both put up big nights, but at the end of the Hawks’ game against Bemidji Friday it was the role players that put their team over the top.
Trailing 77-75 with less than a minute remaining, Drew Schmitz — Blake’s twin brother — drained a pair of free throws, and after another Bemidji bucket on the other end, Peyton Menzel hit a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 80-79 win in the closing seconds. The Lumberjacks had a last-chance, desperation heave with .8 seconds remaining, but the inbounds pass was intercepted by Nathan Hill to clinch the Hawks win — avenging a 78-76 loss at Bemidji on Jan. 17.
The Hawks led 75-67 with about three minutes to play, but Bemidji’s Isaac Severts and Ethan Biehn helped engineer a rally to take the lead until Drew Schmitz and Menzel came through with the clutch makes.
“We knew we had a hot hand in Peyton who had hit two out of three at that point,” Hermantown coach Andy Fenske said. “We drew up our play, they collapsed on Blake — which we were anticipating them doing — and Peyton had it on the corner on the kickout and knocked down that 3 to give us the lead again. That was huge for us, but hopefully for him, too, to understand that we’ve got confidence in him and almost all our other guys too.”
Menzel finished with 14 points, while Blake Schmitz led all scorers with 25 points and Soumis finished with 23.
Bemidji coach Steve Thompson said he thought his team played well down the stretch, but Hermantown came through with the shot at the right time.
“I don’t know that anything went wrong other than they made a big shot at the end,” Thompson said. “We had an opportunity with the ball and it just didn’t work out, but it was a great basketball game with two very good basketball teams going at it and, unfortunately, we came up one point short.”
Severts led the Lumberjacks with 24 points and Biehn had 17 in the effort.
“Isaac and Ethan have been performing at a high level all season long,” Thompson said. “We want the ball in their hands at the end of games and as many touches as they can get throughout the game. They both played really well tonight, as did a lot of our guys coming off the bench contributing in a number of different ways.”
Hawks senior Keaton Christianson was lost with a knee injury recently, Fenske said, but the rest of the team has responded to his absence.
“We’re a team that when everybody’s healthy, we can start seven or eight different guys,” We don’t lose too much — some teams, you bring somebody off the bench and you lose a step or two, but not these guys. It’s a good problem for us to have, trying to figure out how do we get all these guys in who could be starters. A lot of guys coming off the bench would be starters for a lot of teams in the area.”
Fenske said he’s optimistic Christianson can return for the Hawks’ playoff run in March.
Hermantown (14-4) will play at Proctor at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Bemidji (11-7) will play at Perham at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Bemidji — Dan Clusiau 2, Ethan Biehn 17, Quinten Young 11, Dawson Lish 12, Jaxon Boschee 11, Isaac Severts 24, Braden Luksik 2. Totals 33 7-8 79.
3-point goals — Biehn 3, Boschee 3, Severts 2.
Hermantown — Blake Schmitz 25, Brayden Lundeen 1, Abe Soumis 22, Nathan Hill 3, Peyton Menzel 14, Drew Schmitz 7, Broc Sundland 8. Totals 27 15-20 80.
3-point goals — B. Schmitz 2, Soumis 3, Menzel 3, D. Schmitz 1, Sundland 2.