Alex Berg | Sports Editor | 2-27-2012
“I feel like Kevin Garnett whenever he won the championship,” junior guard Dermaine Crockrell yelled. “Anything is possible.”
Senior forward James Ellisor brought the crowd to its feet when he threw down a huge dunk over Upper Iowa defender Tucker Wentzien to give the Beavers an early 10-8 lead.
“We had a few plays, a couple of dunks from me and Dermaine, that got the crowd involved,” Ellisor said.
Ellisor led all scorers with 32 points on 13-17 shooting.
The Beavers closed out the half by going on a 12-1 run to build a 40-32 halftime lead.
“It turned out to be huge,” Bowen said of the run. “We laid an egg to start the second half.”
The Peacocks responded with a 10-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half to grab a 42-40 lead.
Following baskets from Crockrell and Ellisor, BSU led 58-53 with 7:52 left to play.
The Beavers were able to take care of the ball and hit free throws down the stretch to hang on for a 77-65 win.
Lance Rongstad posted a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds.
Ellisor and Rongstad delivered with early baskets on Saturday to give BSU an early 9-4 lead.
The Winona State Warriors (24-4 19-3 NSIC) answered with a 13-4 run to take a 17-13 lead with 14:07 left to play in the first half.
On the heels of a 12-0 run, Winona State was able to build a 42-36 lead by halftime.
After getting three-pointers from Zach Noreen and Tesdahl, BSU cut the Warrior lead to two points at 48-46 with 17:29 left to play.
Tesdahl made his way into the record book in the second half as his eight assists were enough for him to become the all-time single season leader in assists for both BSU and the NSIC.
“It is a great accomplishment,” Tesdahl said. “You can’t get an assist without teammates making the shots. They have done a great job all year long and hopefully we continue it as we head into March.”
Winona rebuilt the lead to nine points at 61-52 thanks to baskets from Cameron Taylor, CJ Erickson, and Jon Walburg.
Crockrell sent the season-best crowd of 2,013 into a frenzy with a three-pointer to give BSU its first lead of the second half at 65-64 with 8:25 remaining.
“I just spread my fingers and let it go,” Crockrell said. “It was a big shot that really got us going.”
Crockrell scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half.
A three from Ellisor gave the Beavers a 77-72 lead with just under five minutes left to play.
Ellisor tied a career-high with 34 points on 9-14 shooting and 15-16 shooting at the free-throw line.
“James had his third straight 30-point game,” Bowen said. “He has got to be one of the best Division II players in the country. It has been a pleasure to coach him.”
A pair of free throws from sophomore forward Maxie Rosenbloom gave BSU its largest lead of the game at 82-74 with 2:22 left.
As the final ten seconds ticked away, the BSU student section joined the players at center court to celebrate the conference championship.
“I don’t know if I have any words for it,” Tesdahl said. “It has been a full circle over the last four years.”
Tesdahl, one of the three seniors honored before the game, is the only senior who has been here all four years.
“Bryce has been the heart and sould of our team,” Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. “He’s just a winner. He wins in high school and he is going to win in life.”
With the two wins, the team set a school-record for wins in a season with 21.
“It means that this is one of the best teams in the history of Bemidji State basketball,” Bowen said. “I hope we can get to 24,25, or 26 wins.”
The fans crowded the the court with cameras as each team member took his turn cutting down the net.
“It is the best crowd I have ever been a part of at BSU,” Tesdahl said. “In my whole career as a basketball player, I have had that feeling a couple of times in high school, but never here.”
Fellow senior Ellisor had similar feelings about the crowd.
“It was amazing,” Ellisor said. “It actually felt like a big-school atmosphere. This is one of the memories I will always cherish and I will never forget it.”
Bemidji State (21-7 16-6 NSIC) has the No.1 seed in the NSIC conference tournament and an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament in March. BSU will host Wayne State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.