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Zach Gabbard fires a shot during warm-ups of a game earlier this season in Fergus Falls. Bob Williams/FOCUS

Perham's Gabbard plays in first game since on-court collapse nearly a year ago

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PARK RAPIDS, Minn. - Looking back, it was a date that caused a lot of pain. But looking forward, it is a date that brought relief.

Perham basketball player Zach Gabbard collapsed a year ago Friday and marked his return by playing in the last 1 minute, 36 seconds in his team's 81-23 win over Park Rapids Area. It was the first time Gabbard, 18, has played in a game since he collapsed in the middle of one last season at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

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"There was a standing ovation from both crowds," said Perham coach Dave Cresap, who also just celebrated his 400th career win. "It was awesome. My emotions were scared, because I am responsible for him being out there, but I was also filled with joy."

Cresap said Gabbard took a 3-pointer and was a few inches short of nailing the shot.

He said Gabbard could play in Perham's next game on Thursday when it hosts Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton if the situation allows for him to come in.

There will be a moment recognizing Gabbard's collapse along with the school honoring Cresap for his career wins mark.

His comeback marks what's been a roller coaster year for Gabbard and the team. Following his collapse, the team went on to win the first state title in school history and in the process went 31-1.

It appears this could be another strong year for the Yellowjackets. Perham is 12-1 and could very well return to state and make a run at defending its title considering it returned all but two players from last season's team.

Should Perham make a run, Gabbard could get some playing time.

"Well, he has to gain strength before gaining more than a minute or two," Cresap said. "You never know. In a month or two, he could be out there playing more."

Gabbard's recovery took a major swing in the right direction in December when he was cleared to practice, and weeks later, was cleared to play after seeing a specialist in Los Angeles.

Cresap and Gabbard both said it would be up to Cresap to determine when Gababrd was in good enough condition to play.

"The last three practices, he's gone 40 minutes," Cresap said. "He did some defensive drills and could participate in those drills. I wasn't going to put him. And my assistant coaches said we were way, way ahead and we got him in there."

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