MOORHEAD — The Perham Yellowjackets (21-7) meet No. 2-Hawley (25-1) tonight at Memorial Auditorium on the campus of Concordia College with a scheduled tip-off at 6:30 p.m.
The Yellowjackets are questing for their third consecutive Subsection championship and the winner of tonight’s game will face either Warroad or Crosby-Ironton from the opposing Subsection for the Section 8AA title and a trip to the state tournament.
The Warriors and Rangers tip off at 7 p.m. at Bemidji State University.
Perham is the only team to defeat the Nuggets, having done so in double overtime in January. A repeat performance is going to require a stellar effort on the court against one of the best offenses in the state.
The Nuggets boast the third highest scoring offense in Class 2A, while Perham has the fifth best defense. A classic matchup of the unstoppable force and immovable object is on tap for tonight.
“We’re going to get ready to attack,” Perham Head Coach Dave Cresap said. “Against them, you’re going to have to make shots. They’re a pretty well-oiled machine, offensively, hopefully, we can slow them down a bit.”
“We just need to do the little things right,” Josh Nordick said. “Shut down their big guys and rebound and defend. It’s just going to come down to simple stuff and we’ve got to put the ball in the hoop and close out on games.”
The Jackets have won seven of eight games since an 18-point loss at Hawley. Their only other blemish was a one-point defeat to 3A Fergus Falls.
Since Hawley’s only loss, the Nuggets have reeled off 17 straight victories by an average margin of 26 points.
At the center of the Nuggets success are senior Devon Pekas and sophomore Ben Ellefson. Neither player is going to be stopped from scoring. It will be Perham’s job to contain the two sharpshooters, while finding a way to score more than their average point total.
However, in recent team history, Perham playoff games have been dictated by defense. The state run to the championship in 2011 saw low-scoring affairs all the way to the final. Perham needed only 45 points to win the semifinal and title game that year.
In seven playoff games last season, Perham averaged 48 points per game winning six of the seven games. Perham’s formula for wins is all about defense.
Hawley has scored in the 50’s just once this season, a 51-41 victory over then No. 7-A Ulen-Hitterdal. The Nuggets average over 77 points per game.
Perham averages under 50 points allowed to their opponents. Perham needed 69 points to defeat Hawley in double OT. That game was tied at 55 at the end of regulation.
The formula for a win in tonight’s game is simple. Whichever team can invoke their will on the process of play will come out the South Subsection champions. It is going to be a battle.