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Perham knocks off unbeaten Sauk Centre to win Grand8 championship

Jay Neubert's game-time three came up short at the buzzer as Perham hung on to beat Sauk Center in the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship.

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The Perham boys basketball team celebrates after the final buzzer following a 52-49 win over Sauk Center on Dec. 29, 2021 to win the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship. Jared Rubado / Perham Focus
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Perham head basketball coach Dave Cresap knew he would have his hands full with sixth-ranked Sauk Centre and standout guard Jay Neubert. However, an impressive defensive showing from the Yellowjackets knocked off unbeaten Mainstreeters 52-49 for a Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship.

"The intensity level that we played at was extremely high," Cresap said. "We had to do that against one of the premier guards in the state of Minnesota, especially in Class AA. He's a phenomenal athlete, and I thought our team defense was just outstanding. We made everything difficult for them. Some of the shots they made were extremely difficult. We didn't give them anything easy. I'm very proud of this group for the intensity they played with for 36 minutes."

Matthew Warring pulled Sauk Centre within a point with 37 seconds left after a pair of free throws. Perham, who struggled from the free throw line all game, clinched the win when Chas Melvin and Alex Ohm hit the last four from the charity stripe.

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Alex Ohm stops near the baseline in the first half of Perham's 52-49 win over Sauk Center on Dec. 29, 2021 to win the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship. Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

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"We tell them the sideline is there for them," Cresap said on making late free throws. "A lot of times, they look over to the sideline, and it gives them that confidence. We've been struggling a little bit at the free throw line all year. If you make four of them down the stretch to win the game, that's pretty big."

Perham's three-point advantage held in the final six seconds as Neubert's game-time three-pointer was contested as time expired. After Cresap took a timeout holding a one-possession lead late in the fourth quarter, The Yellowjackets' defensive toughness shined when it needed to most.

"During that timeout we took, we said we needed to dig down right now," Cresap said. "This is where we need to make plays and support each other on defense. We got a turnover and got a layup on the other end to get that momentum switched. Soren (Anderson) hit that big three to put us up by two. This team has really grown defensively from the beginning of the year to now."

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Jacob Daniels controls the ball under the basket in the first half of Perham's 52-49 win over Sauk Center on Dec. 29, 2021 to win the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship. Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

After a back-and-forth first half, the Yellowjackets took a 25-22 lead into the locker room. The Lead grew to 11 points with 10 minutes left in the second half after Jacob Daniel nailed a pair of three-pointers.

"Jacob Daniels is one of those guys that every coach wants on his team," Cresap said. "He'll do anything you ask him to do. He hit two big threes and had two defensive stops without Micah (Thompson) in the game. He gets down on himself when things don't go right, but he better has his head up tonight because he had a phenomenal effort."

Sauk Centre clawed back to take a 39-38 lead after a 12-0 run. That's when Anderson got hot. He hit two long-range shots to give Perham a four-point lead late in the second half.

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"He's our go-to player on the perimeter," Cresap said of Anderson. "Micah can do a lot of things inside and outside. Soren was getting denied a lot, and they took him out of the game. Kids need to realize that when you're a good player, you draw that attention. He had to be patient. He got two good looks in those last three minutes and really took over the game. He put it on his shoulders, especially without Micah (Thompson)."

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Micah Thompson throws up a puck-back layup in the first half of Perham's 52-49 win over Sauk Center on Dec. 29, 2021 to win the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship. Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Thompson is one of Perham's most dynamic players, but he found himself in foul trouble early in the second half. With four fouls in his pocket, he snatched a game-changing rebound prior to Anderson's big-time three-pointer.

"If they put a small guy on him, we're going to put him in the block and post him up," Cresap said of Thompson. "He's probably averaging around 13 rebounds per game. That's what he brings for us. He has to continue to do that until we find these roles for other players."

Perham found itself in the championship game of the Grand8 tournament after beating Paynesville on Tuesday 61-40. Thompson led the way with 23 points and nine rebounds. Anderson also had 20 points.

The Yellowjackets used just six players in its championship win over Sauk Centre, which paled in comparison to the depth win over the Bulldogs.

"You always worry about conditioning during these tournaments," Cresap said. "We didn't go as deep into our bench today as we did last night against Paynesville. We did get tired, so we dubbed a lot. Soren was sick the night before we played Paynesville. We had a lot of guys step up. Austin Aanenson was phenomenal. Josh Peterson was too. Alex Ohm has been really good off the bench for us all year."

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Soren Anderson drives to the hoop in the first half of Perham's 52-49 win over Sauk Center on Dec. 29, 2021 to win the Grand8 Holiday Basketball Classic championship. Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Perham is now 4-1 on the season with a top-10 win under its belt. Cresap was impressed to see his team step up to get its biggest win of the season so far.

"This is such a good win for this team," Cresap said. "Sauk is one of the best teams in the state. They were undefeated coming into this game. We needed a win like this at this time.

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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