HIBBING — When there’s a chance to land two 2,000-point scorers, it’s hard to pass up that opportunity.
So when Hibbing Community College women’s basketball coach Kate Brau was put in that situation, she couldn’t say no.
That’s how Brau landed two prolific scorers in Bethany Baldwin and Alexis Desjarlait, and they have had a big hand in getting the Cardinals to the Division III National Tournament in Bethlehem, Pa.
Baldwin, who is from Watersmeet, Mich., and Desjarlait, who is from Red Lake, have been filling up the basket, as both of them accumulated over 500 points during their freshman seasons.
Baldwin is from a graduating class of eight, and there were only two other seniors on the team.
During her senior season, she averaged 31 points per game, with individual games of 45, 54 and 63 points. Sometimes, she’d put up more shots than both teams combined.
“She is someone who lives to play basketball,” Brau said. “She’s a competitor. I knew that when I was recruiting her. She carried her team on her shoulders, so that took a bit of time to transition into our program she had teammates and a level of talent she could depend on.
“Bethany is a tremendous talent. We developed a trust with Bethany, and I’m glad that she chose us.”
When Baldwin arrived in Hibbing, she wasn’t going to have to carry the load, but it was hard to break that habit.
“At the beginning of the season, I was trying too hard, but I realized that my teammates had my back and that I could count on them to score, too,” Baldwin said. “I started working on my assists, just being more of an all-around player and not just offense.
“I took matters into my own hands in stepping up with something other than scoring.”
It was all a matter of trusting her teammates.
“It’s a different level of play from high school,” Brau said. “It’s a tough level to jump to. You have to start small, then transition to our level. That took some time, but she’s done a great job.”
Baldwin said her time in AAU ball, all-star games and playing in Native Tournaments prepared her for the college level.
“Being able to pass to players and knowing they could finish was the biggest thing for me,” Baldwin said. “It was a struggle in high school, but I wouldn’t be anywhere now without that.
“It helped me a lot being here and having the teammates that I’ve got. It helped me become an all-around player. I also played with the boys in high school since there were go girls that wanted to play.”
“It was draining, but I’m happy to come to a place now where everybody is dedicated,” Baldwin said. “I felt like I had to carry my team, but I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
Desjarlait comes from a graduating class of 47, but she had more help on the court than Baldwin did.
“Our team we’ve been playing together since elementary school, so we had that chemistry,” Desjarlait said. “I counted on everybody to finish, and that’s how we were the whole season. Everybody stepped up. It wasn’t only me.
“I knew they could finish, and they could all shoot. They could handle the ball. I didn’t have to worry about any of that. It was the teamwork and dedication that we had. We were successful, but our attitudes held us back from going to the state tournament more than twice.”
When Desjarlait arrived in Hibbing, she had to get used to living in a different community, but she fit right in on the basketball team.
“It wasn’t that big of a transition,” Desjarlait said. “It’s a different community, and different people to play ball with. That was the difference, getting to know everybody, and learning how to play with everybody else instead of the team I grew up with.”
“It was uncomfortable at first, but after we got to know each other, within two weeks of school, it was pretty good.”
Desjarlait did play with Grace White in high school. She is now a member of a Division I team in Denver.
“She comes from a winning program,” Brau said. “She’s a coaches kids, so I knew her value in that. She’s a competitor, and we know we scored big with Alexis There’s no one that will out-compete her. She works hard, day in, day out.
“She has a love for the game that is clear through her play. She works on both ends of the floor. She’s one of our toughest defenders. She’s stepped up to many a challenge, and like Bethany, we get the same sort of output on the offensive end.”
Brau knows she grabbed a coup with Baldwin and Desjarlait.
“Alexis jumped in successful right out of the gate,” Brau said. “She had game highs and season highs over and over again. She helped carry our team, and she stayed strong until the end.
“They are strong, successful women, and we’re proud that they’re a part of our program.”