Perham makes it back to the state tournament with players that waited for their moment
FARGO — It was four simple words Perham forward Josh Nordick stated to his team before the season started, which encompass the run of the Yellowjackets. The captain gave fellow Perham starter Eli Beachy chills with what became the team’s slogan for the season.
New team, same dream.
“We’ve been following the slogan all year and now we have a chance to fulfill it,” Beachy said.
After back-to-back seasons with trips to the Minnesota Class 2A state tournament – one resulting in a state championship and the other a third-place finish – Perham became an afterthought. The Yellowjackets lost their top six players from the 2011-12 season and had five new starters with no experience playing in a sub-section championship, section championship and just 17 minutes of court time in the state tournament. After back-to-back seasons ending with a victory, the Yellowjackets were forgotten.
The only problem was the players that had sat on the bench and waited for their moment, had not forgotten what it was like to watch victory.
Perham opens up its third straight state tournament trip versus top-seeded Minnehaha Academy Wednesday at the Target Center.
“Being on the bench and experiencing the section championships and the state tournament, it really helped us playing in one,” Beachy said. “We’ve believed in ourselves ever since the summer. We believe that every game we can go out there and win it.”
Perham watched as conference rivals Hawley and Pelican Rapids grazed the Associated Press top 10 rankings with no mention of the Yellowjackets. The Vikings reached No. 1 at one point in the season and the Nuggets took a No. 2 ranking into the playoffs. The Yellowjackets went 4-2 against them, knocking off the Vikings in the sub-section semifinals and handing Hawley both its losses, including one in the sub-section championship. It wasn’t shocking to the Yellowjackets.
“We just wanted to show that even though we are the underdog, we aren’t going to let you come in and have us roll over,” Nordick said. “We were going to fight. We thrived off teams not expecting us to do much. Some teams came in thinking we weren’t the Perham team they’re used to. We shocked a lot of teams and we showed we deserve to be with the best of them.”
After acting as the sixth man for Perham in its state championship run, center Jordan Hein remembers watching from the bench with an injured back in all but three games of his junior season year last season.
“It was tough,” Hein said. “I feel like if I had been able to play, I would have helped our team get to the finals and there’s a good chance we would have repeated. That was big motivation for me coming into this season.”
Perham had no problem getting written off this season. In fact, they had some fun with it. Before the sub-section championship game against Hawley, Perham coach Dave Cresap - in his 19th year - dressed up in all camouflage and spoke to his team like a commander before battle. He told them they needed to take Nugget Hill. Before the section championship versus Crosby-Ironton, Cresap took a different approach.
“I dressed like a bumble bee with a bowl on top of my head with an antenna out and read some poetry I wrote about getting back to state,” Cresap said.
Perhaps a little unorthodox, but it’s hard to argue with a coach that’s done what Cresap has this season.
“I’d say this is one of our best seasons with the team not returning any kids,” Cresap said. “The kids really responded to our coaching style and took their game to another level.”
It’s a team full of guys that accepted their spots as role players and now have the spotlight versus Minnehaha Academy.
“It was nice being on the bench for state, but it’s our turn to come out and show that we are good basketball players,” Nordick said. “We aren’t just any bench players. We have some talent, too.”
As for Cresap, he’s done with the outfits. His team is ready. They’ve watched it the last two seasons.
“They know what to expect at state,”Cresap said.