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Hoops: Friday night fracas tonight in Pelican Rapids

PELICAN RAPIDS -- History collides as the biggest game of the early boys basketball season tips off tonight when the unranked Perham Yellowjackets (3-1) travel to archrival No. 3-2A Pelican Rapids (2-1) to face the Vikings.

Recent trips to the Vikings' gymnasium have resulted in late-game comeback victories for Pelican Rapids.

The last time the two teams met in Pelican Rapids was January 27. Both teams battled to the final three minutes when Tucker Forsgren and Ryan Bruggeman found ways to keep the Vikings in the lead from the 2:44 mark to the horn in a seesaw 51-48 affair.

Both teams were ranked at the time. Perham was No. 2; Pelican was No. 6.

Perham led most of the 2011 game and saw a lead again evaporate late before Pelican Rapids came back to win in overtime 52-47. The game was a tense defensive battle with brief offensive spurts. The Vikings timed their final run precisely, stealing the game, literally. The loss was the only blemish on the state champion Jackets who finished the year 31-1.

In early March of 2010 near the end of the regular season, Perham made the trip east and came back with another nail-biting loss 60-59.

The undefeated 2008-09 state champion Vikings (33-0) laid it on a sub .500 Perham team 66-31 the year prior.

Pelican's five-game win streak at home over Perham started on Feb. 29, 2008 with a 10-point victory 56-46.

The last time Perham won in the orange gym was Jan. 26, 2007, a 50-48 victory that marked Head Coach Dave Cresap's 300th win.

Both clubs have only one-loss to very tough teams that came in their season openers. Pelican Rapids lost to 3A Fergus Falls 71-60 on the road. The last time Pelican started the season 0-1 was 2010 when they lost in Perham 62-52.

Perham started this year's campaign against an athletic Minnehaha Academy squad that took the game over as halftime approached en route to a 66-50 victory over the Yellowjackets. Perham had not started a season 0-1 since a loss to Park Christian in 2008.

Tonight's game is the Heart O' Lakes Conference opener for both teams.

On paper, the Jackets and Vikings are similar. Perham averages 69.8 points per game while allowing 56.3. Pelican scores 61.7 ppg, allowing 54.0.

The recipe for victory for Perham is easy to diagnose and difficult to enact. The experienced duo of senior center Forsgren and junior guard Bruggeman will be key to the outcome. Bruggeman paces the Vikings and Pelican's up-tempo style along with the ball work between Bruggeman and Forsgren attacking from down low and outside will provide an early-season test for the Yellowjackets.

The Vikings will undoubtedly prepare for a scrappy, full-throttle performance from Perham. Where the Jackets have struggled this season has been from the three-point line. The Jackets shot just 2-20 in their blowout victory over No. 10A Crosby-Ironton last week. If Perham shooters can find their stroke from downtown, the load on junior big-man Hunter Salathe, who has picked his game up quickly this season in the paint, will be lessened.

Perham has been the benefactor of balanced scoring from starters this season. Eli Beachy and Josh Nordick average 11.5 ppg. Salathe averages 11 having led the team in scoring in two of four games. Beachy and Nordick took the helm in Perham's other pair of games.

Tyler Glines is averaging double figures with 10.3 ppg. Sam Muer averages 9.3 with only the last game against the Rangers as his only single-digit scoring night. Jordan Hein has been a wild card so far this season coming off a record-breaking football performance this fall. Hein is more than accustomed to big games and will provide needed leadership in the rowdy Pelican gym.

Beachy, Nordick, Salathe, Glines and Muer combine for 77 percent of Perham's team scoring.

The game will be like the past few years - full of intense up-tempo play against two stingy defenses. Early momentum has meant little compared to the runs that come with halftime adjustments. Between these two schools, there is no bigger game. Quite a way to kick off conference play.

In past seasons, the junior varsity games have been played in front of fully-attended bleachers, occasionally standing-room-only crowds, with fans jockeying for a seat to watch what will inevitably be the game of the season so far for both squads.

Get there early if you want a seat. Might want to pack the ear plugs too.

Tif-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Pelican Rapids High School Gymnasium.

Perham scoring:

(Player, Points in games 1-4, total points, average)

Beachy 15, 15, 8, 8 - 46, 11.5 ppg

Nordick 9, 11, 16, 10 - 46, 11.5 ppg

Salathe 1, 16, 9, 18 - 44, 11.0 ppg

Glines 12, 9, 10, 10 - 41, 10.3 ppg

Muer 10, 12, 11, 4 - 37, 9.3 ppg

Anderson 0, 8, 9, 5 - 22, 5.5 ppg

Hein 0, 7, 2, 4 - 13, 3.3 ppg

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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