Teams head to state already holding titles
Both the Perham and Battle Lake boys basketball teams will begin play at the state basketball tournament with a state title already in hand.
Both teams were named state academic champions for their respective classes – Perham in Class 2A and Battle Lake in Class A, according to voting by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association.
Both Dave Cresap’s and Dan Peterka’s teams have added 20-plus win seasons for each school and the brain power that proves how each team’s members excel in the classroom has paid dividends in helping each team qualify for the state tournament while being unranked.
The Battlers are making their first trip to Minneapolis in eight seasons and their second state appearance.
The Yellowjackets are making their third consecutive and overall appearances.
In speaking to coach Cresap, he often states how coachable this particular team has been, and it shows in how well the Yellowjackets have adapted to each changing opponent.
The last three Jacket opponents have been seeded or ranked higher than Perham, but when the totals were tallied on the scoreboard, those opponents left with a lower number where it counts.
Both clubs have faced adversity in the playoffs. The Battlers were nearly knocked off by West Central Area in the opening round, advancing with a 67-63 victory at home.
The opening quarterfinal game at state will be the largest test faced by Battle Lake all season.
The Battlers take on the No. 4-ranked team in Class A and the No. 2-seeded Upsala Cardinals. Upsala is undefeated with a record of 30-0.
Perham also has an uphill battle against the top-seed in Class 2A, the No. 4-ranked Minnehaha Academy Redbirds.
Even the opponents’ mascots are similar. Perham and Battle Lake are definitely a tangential pair at this year’s tournament.
Perham faced Minnehaha Academy in the season opener in Perham, losing 66-50.
It is going to take some brain power from the coaching staff and the team to figure out a way to get past Kaharri Carter and Marcellous Hazzard and the rest of the Redbirds.
Since a January 22 meeting between the Jackets and Battlers, in which Perham won 71-59, the Battlers have been victors in 12 of 13 games.
Including the victory over Battle Lake, Perham has won 14 of 17 games, including three over ranked opponents.
Each club has a stiff test in the first round, but all games at state are going to be tough.
Last year, Perham won two games at state by an average margin of victory of five points. Their semifinal loss to Litchfield was by two points at the buzzer.
In the state title run in 2011, it took two overtimes and a four-point victory in the semifinals and an eight-point win in the finals over Rochester Lourdes.
Perham has the experience to duplicate 2011, and most of those kids were team members who know how it feels to play on the biggest courts in the state.
The Yellowjackets have been tested throughout the playoffs and have shown the program is running in prime condition.
The scary part for their opponents is that it’s altogether possible the Perham and Battle Lake team members are smarter.
Either way, both the Battlers and Yellowjackets head to state on a roll, and both will take the floor Wednesday and Thursday in opening round action already state champions.
That says quite a bit about each team up and down the bench.
North Branch, Waconia and Buffalo received the state academic team awards in Class 3A-5A.