#1-2A Yellowjackets hold on for 72-69 victory at 3A Fergus Falls
If the top-ranked Perham Yellowjackets (7-0) have an Achilles' heel, it's free throw shooting and it almost cost them Thursday night, as they won for the 26th consecutive time. Perham defeated the Otters 72-69 in Fergus Falls.
Tied at 50 with less than 10 minutes remaining, Perham went on a 20-7 run to lead 70-57 with two minutes to play.
The 13-point advantage was the largest lead for either club in a game that was back and forth with far more offense than defense.
Much of Perham's defense was stymied when six-foot seven-inch center Mark Schumacher picked up his third foul with over four minutes until halftime. In the second half, Schumacher was forced to play conservatively on the defensive end, while trying to stop Otter forward Mike Millard, who led all scorers with 29 points.
"Millard just tore us up," Perham Head Coach Dave Cresap said. "He's very active and our posts weren't ready for the aggressiveness of Millard. He took it at us and I give him all the credit. He really worked hard."
Millard single-handedly kept Fergus Falls in the game.
Down 13 in the waning minutes, he scored down low and got to the line causing Schumacher's fourth foul. On the next trip down the floor, Millard scored again cutting Perham's lead to nine, 70-61.
Millard gave Schumacher the exit drawing the center's fifth foul with 1:01 remaining. Millard made two foul shots to cut the lead to seven.
"That's tough," Perham guard Jordan Cresap said. "(Schumacher's) defensive presence down there is so important for us. He alters and blocks so many shots."
In a mandatory foul situation, the Otters sent the Jackets to the line to close out the game.
Jordan Bruhn missed two shots and Zach Rengel grabbed the rebound and went coast-to-coast cutting the lead to five, 70-65.
Perham's Dan Cavanagh went to the stripe with 27.7 seconds remaining and missed both shots.
The Otters raced down the floor and Millard drew a foul and made both attempts from the line to make it a one-possession game, 70-67, with 18.2 ticks left.
Jordan Anderson made one of two free throws to push it to 71-67 and Millard struck again for two points cutting the lead to a deuce, 71-69, with 6.6 seconds on the clock.
Jordan Cresap made one of two to make Fergus Falls hit a three to tie.
Otter guard Jake Anderson fumbled with the ball just across half-court before passing to Austin Rund, who stepped up to the three-point line and fired as the buzzer sounded clanging his attempt off the rim to spare Perham from overtime.
"Every team that we play is going to come after us with their A-game," Coach Cresap said. "I'm just glad we got out of here with a win against a very good basketball team and I'm very proud of our guys."
All five starters for Perham scored in double figures. Jordan Cresap led the team with 17 points.
"We knew we they were going to make a run," Jordan Cresap said. "It's always tough at their place. We were fortunate enough to get a big enough lead late in the second half."
Jordan Bruhn scored 15 points; Schumacher scored 15; Wiskow and Jordan Anderson had 11 points.
Anderson scored a huge bucket driving to the hoop, making the shot and garnering a foul from Rengel. Anderson's efforts bumped Perham's lead to seven and temporarily stunned the Otters.
Perham's defense stepped up in a five-minute span that kept Millard off the scoreboard. As Millard was silenced, Perham's lead grew, until Millard almost brought the Otters all the way back.
"I've got to give Mike Wiskow credit being five-11 and having to guard Millard," Coach Cresap said.
Millard is six-foot-four and every Jacket who guarded him had his hands full, especially Wiskow, who played stellar defense in the latter minutes and got to loose balls, while threatening on the offensive end with his effective cuts to the basket.
"We stepped it up at the end and pulled it out," Jordan Cresap said.
The victory is the second over a Class 3A school this season for Perham, their 26th consecutive victory and an important statement pulling out another big win in a hostile gymnasium.
The Jackets will next travel to Worthington after Christmas.
"The coaches prepare us and get us ready for each game and we come out ready to go," Jordan Cresap said.
Perham will be the favorite to win the Worthington tournament. Besides the home court advantage in favor of Worthington, two ranked Class 1A teams will be in the tournament.
The MACCRAY Wolverines came into Thursday's play with a record of 4-1 and ranked #6.
The Ellsworth Panthers are 6-1 and ranked #3. Worthington is unranked in Class 2A with a record of 3-2.
Worthington was ranked #7 in the December 14 2A poll, before suffering consecutive losses to Marshall by three points and Ellsworth last Tuesday by five.
The Yellowjackets head into the tournament with plenty of confidence, as they continue to find ways to win ball games consistently.
"I'm not really disappointed about anything," Coach Cresap said. "They played through a lot of adversity. We didn't come out with the intensity that I wanted tonight but that's going to happen."
The Worthington tournament is a two-day affair beginning Tuesday, Dec. 27, concluding the following day.
Correction: Points have been adjusted due to discrepancies in the statistics reported.