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Breckenridge repeats with finals victory over Perham

Martin Lafond of Perham falls with Dawson Pedersen of Breckenridge as they struggle for the ball during their Minn. Class 2A, Section 8 basketball championship game Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Concordia, Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

The Breckenridge Cowboys held off the previously undefeated and No. 3 ranked Perham Yellowjackets in the second half, capturing the Section 8AA Championship for the second straight year with a 47-39 victory over the Perham Yellowjackets at the Memorial Auditorium at Concordia-Moorhead.

“I’m very disappointed. I have had a lot of losses in my career and it’s really affecting me. It makes you think as a coach, did you have them ready, didn’t you have them ready and you doubt yourself as a coach,” Perham head coach Dave Cresap said. “You have to give credit to Breckenridge, they played hard. We just missed every open shot we had. We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Yes, it’s a disappointing end to the season, but these kids were 29-1. You have to take some bright spots from that. You always want that end goal to get to state, but we didn’t make it. They will remember 29 wins and a lot of teams would be happy to get 29 wins. Right now, I’m hurting bad, but we have to move forward.”

Finn Diggins drives to the basket against Breckenridge. Michael Vosburg/Forum News Service

Noah Christensen and Derek Dahlgren led the Cowboys for the second straight year in the section final. Christensen ended the game with 22 points, while Dahlgren poured in 12 points.

The Cowboys were content with slowing things down and it worked to their advantage.

“Their two studs kind of stepped up. Dahlgren and Christensen are pretty good. We didn’t have an answer,” Cresap said. “Our main guys didn’t really step up tonight and missed a lot of shots. That is going to happen, they are young kids. We still love the kids.”

Josh Jeziorski and Martin LaFond led the way for Perham with 10 points each. Freshman Finn Diggins gave Perham valuable minutes, battling inside throughout, finishing with seven points and six rebounds. All of his points came in the second half, when he tried to cut into the lead.

The Cowboys patience paid off in the second half, but Perham responded with a late run, cutting the lead to two points, 40-38, after a pair of free throws from LaFond. However, Perham could not get the shots to drop in the final minutes of the game and Breckenridge was able to close it out at the free throw line.

The Yellowjackets who are usually strong from the 3-point line could not get their triples to drop, hitting just one of 17 in the game. Breckenridge pressured and limited the Yellowjackets space in the contest. A couple of the 3-pointers were of the desperation variety in the waning seconds of the game.

Perham started out strong, forcing six turnovers in the early minutes, racing out to a 10-2 lead in the first few minutes of the half. Yet, it was the Cowboys who settled in and controlled the pace after the rough start.

A 3-pointer by Andrew Kram, followed by a 3-point play from Christensen gave the Cowboys some momentum. The Cowboys closed the half on a 22-8 run, including five points in the last 30 seconds when Dahlgren hit one of his two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws by EJ Engen gave Breckenridge the 24-18 lead at the break.

Ultimately, the Yellowjackets could not get back to even with Breckenridge in the second half, falling for the third straight year in the section final. It’s something Cresap said that will stick with the team and will take a long time for it to heal.

“We have a lot great underclassmen coming. The cupboard is not bare,” Cresap said. “We have to get over this statement that we can’t win this section game. We have to find an answer to that and hopefully, we can do that.”

The Yellowjackets graduate a group of seniors, who played integral roles in the team’s success during the season.

“We had four guys, Tanner Knutson, Ryan Kalina, Danny Zitzow and Seth Johnson, who didn’t see a lot of playing time throughout their career, except on the junior varsity level, and they were always positive and good teammates. They were always there for everyone else,” Cresap said. “You have Martin (LaFond), Logan (Richter) and Ben (Winkels), who played a lot and did so much for us. They were great teammates. I love all of those kids.”

The Yellowjackets end the season with a 29-1 record, while Breckenridge improves its season mark to 25-5 overall and will play on Wednesday, March 28 at either Williams Arena or the Target Center.

BRK 24 21--47

PER 18 21--39

BRK: Andrew Kram 7, Dawson Pedersen 4, Noah Christensen 22, Caden McGough 2, EJ Engen 2, Derek Dahlgren 12

3-pointers: Kram, Christensen, Dahlgren 2. Free Throws: 9-14. Fouls:14. Fouled Out: None

PER: Jenson Beachy 8, Martin LaFond 10, Josh Jeziorski 10, John LaFond 1, Carter Cresap 3, Finn Diggins 7

3-pointers: Cresap Free Throws: 12-18 Fouls:15 Fouled Out: None

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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