One game at a time
The combined nature of heavy and hopeful Perham hearts was bolstered by sincere empathy from the West Central Area team and fans during and after the game Tuesday evening.
Little sympathy was shown to the hosts on the floor, as the Yellowjackets improved to 12-0 after a 64-13 victory.
Even missing Zach Gabbard, the Perham defense picked up right where it left off, holding the third team this season to single digits at the half.
Perham led by thirty at the break, 37-7.
The game got off to a nervous start with both teams going scoreless the first two minutes.
The large Perham contingent in attendance, which outnumbered the collection of West Central fans, stood all the while awaiting the first bucket.
Mark Schumacher's contested shot under the basket garnering a foul brought a roar from the Perham crowd.
Schumacher and Jordan Bruhn got the Yellowjackets on the board and the duo would lead an onslaught of points to come.
Bruhn led all scorers with 16 points, shooting four of six from the three-point line. Schumacher's five-inch advantage on the tallest Knight allowed him to dominate inside.
Jordan Cresap filled the empty starting position left by Gabbard's absence and the emotion of that role was evident on his face in warm-ups and in the opening minutes.
"There was a lot of emotion surrounding the game," Head Coach Dave Cresap said. "I think all of the guys responded very well and handled themselves very well."
The Yellowjackets warmed up in Zach Gabbard t-shirts. Schumacher carried Gabbard's jersey into the game and it remained on the bench with the players for the duration. Schumacher also sported a headband dedicated to Zach. Behind the bared emotions on players' faces was steeled determination.
"I think Schumacher, Bruhn, and (Cresap) were so focused to not let anything get in the way of victory. I was proud of the way (Cresap) responded in being put in the starting lineup in Zach's position."
Having practiced minimally over the past week and dealing with the constant uncertainty of their teammate's condition created a plausible situation for a tense start to the game.
"The pre-game locker room was very focused but nervous about the whole situation. We talked about the Marines not leaving any men behind, so we were going to put Zach on our back and carry him along for the ride the rest of the season," Cresap said.
They took Gabbard, all the Perham fans and the West Central fans and players, put them all on their backs and raced around the court untouched by the Knights' defense and keeping the flow of the game in Yellowjacket style.
A Jordan Cresap three-pointer put Perham up 12-0. West Central was held scoreless for the first five minutes finally scoring at the 13-minute mark of the first half.
By the midway point of the opening 18 minutes, the game was well out of reach, 25-4.
Bruhn sunk a three-pointer to open the second half stretching the lead to 40-7 and while most teams would have cruised the rest of the way, Perham played with a purpose until wholesale substitutions made way for bench players who carried the same purpose and determination denying West Central any chance at scoring.
The 13 points allowed was a season-low for Perham. Perham held Frazee to 17 points and Adrian to 18.
"After the game, I sensed some relief in their bodies. They felt very good about the victory but that wasn't the most important thing. They want Zach to come back to them and be part of this team. They know the motto we are using, 'one game and one day at a time.'"
The sale of yellow ribbons during the game raised $513.89. All proceeds will be donated to the Zach Gabbard fund set up at United Community Bank.
Donation's can be made at any UCB location (Perham, Frazee, Dean's Country Foods in Perham) in the name of the Zach Gabbard Fund. They can also be sent to United Community Bank at 155 Second St. SW, Perham MN 56573.
For more information, call United Community Bank at 218-346-5700, or go to their website, www.ucbankmn.com.
The Jackets busy week of three games continued with another road trip and a battle for the Heart O' Lakes conference lead at Pelican Rapids.
Perham entered the game 6-0 in conference play. The Vikings were 6-1. Their only loss came at the hands of the Yellowjackets, 62-52, in December.
The game got off to a tense start with television cameras on both ends of the floor and a packed gym trying to get every spectator a view in standing room only conditions.
Schumacher got the Jackets on the board early with two free throws after being fouled underneath.
Nick Tobkin added a trio of three-pointers in the first half and Perham would not trail in the first half of play going to the locker room up eight, 23-15.
Perham's largest lead was ten points and it would deplete slowly in the second half.
With five minutes to play, Perham led by seven and took a full timeout to gauge the final minutes.
Out of the timeout, the Pelican defense forced a turnover from Tobkin and Luke Halbakken would score two baskets sandwiching a score from Sam Stratton for Perham.
Casey Bruggeman scored back-to-back buckets for the Vikings and the Perham lead was one.
A Bruhn free throw made the lead a deuce with a minute to go.
Halbakken tied the game from the free throw line and Perham had 22 seconds to seal the victory with a basket, but a Tobkin floater in the lane met with unfriendly iron, bounced twice on the rim and fell to the floor leading to overtime.
Pelican Rapid took the lead, 44-42, on a Halbakken put back and the score would tie twice more before a huge Bruggeman three-pointer gave Pelican a 49-46 advantage with 38.7 seconds remaining.
Threes from Bruhn and Tobkin did not find the mark sealing the first loss of the year for Perham.
Over $900 was raised at the game for the Zach Gabbard fund.
The Yellowjackets had little time to rest after dueling into the night. They were faced with 14-2 Maple River come-a-calling for a Saturday afternoon matinee game.
The game was the first at home since Gabbard's collapse.
Bruhn got Perham off to a hot start on way to 15 first half points and a commanding 33-15 lead at the break.
Mark Schumacher was unkind to Eagle shooters swatting away three shots early and owning the paint.
The second half was a different ball game. Maple River pressed on defense and got shots to fall at the other end of the gym quickly cutting the Yellowjacket margin to four.
That's as close as the Eagles would get making short bursts at the Yellowjackets but being kept at bay. Tobkin and Cresap sealed the game late and Perham hung on for a 59-54 victory.
Gabbard's father, Steve, received a standing ovation from the Saturday crowd before the game..
H: P 37, WCA 7
Jordan Bruhn 16, Mark Schumacher 12, Nick Tobkin 10, Mike Wiskow 10, Jordan Cresap 8, Dan Cavanagh 4, Sam Stratton 3, Jordan Anderson 1.
2's--15/29; 3's--9/23; FT's--7/10.
West Central Area
Colton Blascyk 2, Dakotah Kashmark 2, Drew Peterson 2, Neil Hyttsten 2, Christian Hammer 2, Jake Boedekker 2, Christian Thomasey 2, Beau Kashmark 1.
2's-- 6/23; 3's--0/16; FT's 1/3.
H: P 23, PR 15
Nick Tobkin 13; Sam Stratton 11; Mark Schumacher 8; Jordan Bruhn 8; Jordan Cresap 6; Mike Wiskow 1.
Luke Halbakken 21; Taylor Budke 11; Casey Bruggeman 9; Ryan Bruggeman 7; Tucker Forsgren 2; Ryan Huseby 2
H: P 33, MR 15
Alex Maslakow 11, Jaron Denn 11, Michael Lewis 9, T.J. Novak 8, Garrett Fitzsimmons 7, Josiah Breiter 5, Clark Minks 3.
2's--19/39; 3's--4/18; FT's--4/12;
Rebounds--31; Turnovers--22; Fouls--18.
Jordan Bruhn 28 (3 3-pointers, 8 reb, 5 ast, 3 stl), Nick Tobkin 9 (3 stl), Mike Wiskow 8 (2 reb), Mark Schumacher 7 (9 reb, 3 stl, 3 blk), Jordan Cresap 3 (3 reb), Jordan Hein 2, Sam Stratton 2.
2's--17/34; 3's--4/17; FT's--13/23.
Rebounds--26; Assists--10; Steals--12; Turnovers--14; Fouls--13.