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Girls basketball: Perham grinds out ugly win over Barnesville with late-game defensive heroics

Sydney Anderson six away from 1,000 career points

1 Willow Thiel AD7C1099.JPG
Willow Thiel draws a foul while driving through traffic to the rim in the first half of Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus
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Perham senior guard Sydney Anderson came into Thursday night's game against Barnesville 22 points shy of 1,000 for her career. However, it was her defense that shined when the Yellowjackets needed her most.

With 22.8 seconds left trailing 52-51, the Trojans (7-4) had the play they wanted. With the ball at the perimeter and two wide-open girls under the basket, Anderson deflected the ball out of bounds to save what would've been the easiest two points of the night for the Trojans.

Perham (10-4) sophomore Willow Thiel also came up with a block and a rebound in the final 30 seconds to help the Yellowjackets hang onto a one-possession win.

"We were in a scramble situation when we're up by one, and she sprints to the sideline and knocks the ball out of bounds," Perham head coach TJ Super said of Anderson's deflection in the final minute. "That play saved the game because (Barnesville) had two girls wide open under the basket. A lot of people will look at Willow and Syd and the points they score, but when you watch them and see all of the other stuff that happens that might not make the box score, you can see how great they are."

1 Kaia Anderson AD7C1073.JPG
Kaia Anderson, left, looks for a rebound during a free throw attempt in the first half of Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Barnesville put Anderson at the free-throw line with under 15 seconds left, which got her 15th and 16th points of the night. It proved to be needed as the Trojans added a put-back layup at the buzzer to pull within a point of Perham for the second time this season.

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Super called Thursdays win a gritty and an ugly one. The Yellowjackets are still trying to find their way without senior guard Greta Hillukka. Barnesville swarmed Perham's leading scorers from start to finish.

"We didn't play very well again," Super said. "When you're missing Greta it's going to be that way. She's really, really, really good. We have to find better ways to make plays, and the girls have to be smarter. During the first 10 or so games of the season, the girls really bought into their roles. Now their roles have changed because girls have to do things they didn't have to do before. We're not playing within our roles. We're making mistakes, and we have to get better at limiting that."

1 Ryleigh Mickelson AD7C0966.JPG
Ryleigh Mickelson, left, passes the ball to a teammate in the first half of Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Perham held Barnesville scoreless during the opening three minutes of the game before the Trojans went on a 7-2 run. The Yellowjackets struggled from the field early on.

"They have great defenders that were all up in our grill," Anderson said. "We're used to that now, but that pressure kind of got to us tonight. We realized that we needed to take care of the ball better. Our cutting was good, and we took advantage of that. We needed to do that more tonight."

The Yellowjackets jumped out to a 24-19 lead before Barnesville closed the last four minutes of the first half on another 7-2. Thiel, who didn't play the final stretch in the first half due to foul trouble, led Perham with 10 points in the first 18 minutes.

"We had a lot of girls that didn't play very well in the first half, but they didn't pout about it," Super said. "They got after it and played a better second half. Even though we have a lot of work to do, we have the tools. It's up to us to put them in the right position."

"The girls need to have energy," Super said. "We had three or four turnovers that were just energy plays. The ball was either tipped from behind, or we got lazy with it. You cut out half of those plays, and it's a different game. But in a one-possession game, they become really important."

When the Yellowjackets needed a spark, they turned to junior Olivia Pilgrim. She scored Perham's first seven points in the second half before hitting a big three-pointer with two minutes left to give the Yellowjackets a one-point lead.

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"She really turned the corner and got to the basket well in the second half," Super said of Olivia Pilgrim. "Obviously, our shots aren't falling as much lately. We're maybe hitting a shooting slump. When you're shooting 45% from three, you know that's going to happen eventually. (Pilgrim) turned the corner and got to the rack for us. She knocked down those two big threes for us later in the game."

1 Kennedy Pilgrim AD7C1044.JPG
Kennedy Pilgrim drives through traffic for a layup attempt in the first half of Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Perham guards Olivia Rosenthal and Ryleigh Mickelson also stepped up in the second half defensively. Both girls clamped opponents with their perimeter and transition defense despite combining for zero points.

"Rosey had possessions where she refused to let her girl get to the basket," Super said. "Ryleigh forced some big turnovers when we were behind. Those are what got us those open threes in transition. I thought both of them and Kennedy Pilgrim did a really good job. Kennedy boxed out and got some big rebounds and tips. Those three girls were really good down the stretch."

In a game riddled with mistakes from both teams on both ends of the floor, the Yellowjackets were pleased to come away with a win and stay undefeated in Heart O'Lakes Conference play.

"I don't think either team liked the way they played," Super said. "(Barnesville) is dealing with a girl that's gone too. Their best player tore her ACL. We had two girls that are starters that didn't play tonight. That's the kind of game you get right now. We're only halfway through the year. We have a long time to learn how to play differently. Hopefully, when Greta comes back, we'll be in a better position to be successful."

"I don't think either team liked the way they played," Super said. "(Barnesville) is dealing with a girl that's gone too. Their best player tore her ACL. We had two girls that are starters that didn't play tonight. That's the kind of game you get right now. We're only halfway through the year. We have a long time to learn how to play differently. Hopefully, when Greta comes back, we'll be in a better position to be successful."

1 Sydney Anderson AD7C0943.JPG
Sydney Anderson warms up before Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive. Anderson scored a team-high 16 points and is six points away from 1,000.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Anderson inches closer

Barring something unforeseen, Perham's leading scorer will hit the 1,000-point mark on Tuesday night in Frazee.

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"My dad is from Frazee," Anderson said. "He had his big night in Perham. I'm from Perham, so hopefully, I can do it in Frazee. We'll see how that goes, but it could be a special night. I dreamed of it, but you never know if it's going to happen. I'm glad I'm at this point now."

Thursday night started out a bit rough for Anderson when she missed her first few shots. She got going towards the end of the first half before scoring 11 in the second half. She had a team-high 16 points.

"A little bit," Anderson said on if she thought about the 1,000-point milestone during Thursday's game. "I need to just let it happen naturally and not think about it too much. That's what I'll go into the next game thinking."

Anderson has been an impactful part of Perham girls basketball for a long time. When she does score her 1,000th point, it will be more than just a celebration of her offensive prowess.

"She's been really good, and she's been doing it for a long time," Super said of Anderson. "I think back to when she was a freshman and her stepping up against Roseau. They were ranked No. 1 in the state and nailed a pair of free throws down by two with five seconds left. That's exactly who she is–a great shooter that's cool under pressure. She wasn't always the greatest defender, but she's developed so well as a player."

BARNESVILLE 26 27 - 53

PERHAM 26 28 - 54

PERHAM SCORING- Willow Thiel 13, Kaia Anderson 6, Sydney Anderson 16, Lily Aakre 3, Lauryn Rustad 4, Olivia Pilgrim 10, Kennedy Pilgrim 2

BARNESVILLE SCORING- Emily Bredman 14, McKenzie Skogen 10, Emily Smith 4, Trinity Gregg 5, Lauren Halverson 10, Alexis Bolgrean 8, Kenadee Gray 2

1 Sydney Anderson AD7C1083.JPG
Sydney Anderson drives through the paint in the first half of Perham's 54-53 win over Barnesville on Jan. 20, 2022 at The Hive.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Related Topics: PERHAM YELLOWJACKETS
Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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