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Yellowjacket girls basketball opens with Mills

Perham Head Coach TJ Super talks things over with his team during a recent practice at the Prairie Wind Middle School. Jason Groth/FOCUS

The Perham Yellowjacket basketball team hits the floor on Tuesday, Dec. 2 against a familiar foe in the New York Mills Eagles in New York Mills.

Last year, the Yellowjackets knocked off the Eagles, 63-49, which capped off a three-game winning streak for the Yellowjackets.

The Yellowjackets hope they can repeat that feat against a team that won 19 games a year ago.

The Yellowjackets have been in the gymnasium for the past week in anticipation for the new season.

“Practices have been going really, really well. The girls are getting after it,” Perham Head Coach TJ Super said. “We are continuing to change and evolve the system. The last two years have been stepping stones. This year is another step towards playing the way we want to play.”

Super said that the way the Yellowjackets want to play is a more up-tempo offense with a strong pressing defense.

“We are throwing some new ideas at them, but still working on a lot of the same fundamental things that we have been working on the last couple of years,” Super said.

It was a big improvement for the Yellowjackets in 2013-14. They improved their win total by 10 games and earned a first round playoff win over Barnesville, 50-48. It marked the first playoff win for Perham since the 2009-10 season.

“Last year was a great year. We improved from two to 12 wins,” Super said. “We got the first playoff win in five years. It was a whole mindset shift. Our junior varsity won 20 games, our C team was successful and the eighth grade was successful.”

That mindset change showed during the off-season according to Super. Super said the team has been working hard during the off-season with the junior varsity and varsity squads winning some summer tournaments.

Brittany Miller returns to the team. Last year, she led the Yellowjackets with 16 points in their win over New York Mills.

Sydney Roberts returns to the Yellowjackets with a couple of years of experience at the varsity level.

Maria Rutten is back as well. Rutten led the team in many categories and was one of the leading scorers in their win over the Eagles. She finished with 16. Josie Beachy is back as well. She finished with 14 in the win over New York Mills.

The team returns a lot of experience entering into the year, hoping to build on last year’s 12 win season.

“It’s important, partially because of the varsity game experience, however, more so, because of the system,” Super said. “They understand it, running it in the off-season and during the season. They are starting to learn the game of basketball. Our systems isn’t about running to an x and go to a spot, it’s about reading the defense, reading the offense and figuring out where we need to go. Every day, you have a kid in the classroom, they are going to improve. The longer they are there, the more they are going to improve.”

Their opponent is hoping to build upon their 19-6 record from last year. The Eagles rattled off six straight after the loss to Perham. They were eventually eliminated in the Section 6A playoffs by Lake Park-Audobon, 61-47.

Ellie Rutten and Lydia Rutten both return to the Eagles. Ellie Rutten paced New York Mills in the loss to Perham, finishing with a game high of 19 points. Lydia Rutten added 13 in the contest. They were the only two in double figures for the Eagles in that one.

Last year, the Yellowjackets broke away from New York Mills in the second half, outscoring the Eagles, 33-20.

The rematch for the teams kicks off the season for Perham. The Yellowjackets’ home opener will be on Friday, Oct. 5 when they host Crookston at 7:30 p.m.

The Yellowjackets and the Eagles tip off the season at 6 p.m. at the New York Mills High School Gymnasium on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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