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Yellowjackets outlast Braves

Jason Groth/FOCUS Perham’s Maria Rutten uses the left hand for two of her game high 29 points against Menahga.

The Perham Yellowjacket girls basketball team returned to the win column with a 67-55 victory over the Menahga Braves on Monday, Feb. 2 at the Prairie Wind Middle School.

“I thought we came out a little flat, and then we figured stuff out, picked it up and played really well,” Perham Head Coach TJ Super said. “We didn’t do a very good job of rebounding in the first half. After halftime, we came out with a more concerted effort. We were more focused defensively, more focused on rebounding and played really well for 13 minutes. For the most part, I was really happy with the way the girls came out on a Monday night—playing their butts off and getting a good win.”

Maria Rutten led all scorers with 29 points. Janie Wunderlich and Carolynn Baardsen added eight for the Yellowjackets.

“It was a tough game. They are pretty good for how short they are,” Rutten said. “They have Shelby Pihlaja, who can do a lot of stuff for them. They played really well, I thought, for us being so much taller than them.”

Rutten scored 18 of her 29 points in the first half. The Yellowjackets outscored, Menahga, 36-21, in the first half.

“It was clicking in the first half. Everyone got their shot and got to the rim,” Rutten said. “That’s something we haven’t been able to lately because we have been shooting a lot of three’s. I’m glad we could get to the rim, too.”

The Yellowjackets were able to attack inside with a distinct height advantage against Menahga.

“We knew we had a little bit of size, and it was the first game that we could say that all season,” Super said. “It wasn’t so much about getting it into the post; it was still our standard offense with cutting and moving. The girls drove in well. It was a good effort.”

Once again the Yellowjackets received valuable minutes from their bench. Janie Wunderlich, Michaela Sondag and Gabby DeBoer gave the Yellowjackets good minutes with the absence of Brittany Miller and Sydney Roberts.

“We have girls that are playing really well. It almost makes the decision difficult of who is going to get in and who is going to play,” Super said. “That is a good problem to have.”

The Yellowjackets found themselves in an unfamiliar position late in the second half. Perham led 60-37 before Menahga went on a late surge.

Shelby Pihlaja caught fire for the Braves. She hit four 3-pointers in the second half and scored all 19 of her points in the half.

The Braves used a 17-5 run to cut it to 11, before two free throws from Rutten closed it out.

“We were playing really well. I think in the end we let up because we haven’t been in that position very much this year,” Rutten said. “We just weren’t really used to it. We will fight back next time and we know how to play it now.”

The Yellowjackets are now 5-11 and snapped a two game skid with the win. Menahga falls to 7-10 on the season.

“I definitely think this will give us some momentum to start a big winning streak,” Rutten said. “We have Breckenridge on Friday, I think, we can be able to get them.”

The Yellowjackets will take on the Cowgirls on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Cowgirls edged Perham, 51-42, in their previous meeting in Breckenridge. The opening tip is set for 7:30 p.m.

Menahga 21-34—55

Perham 36-31—67

Menahga- Hannah Allebach 6, Alayna Lake 10, Lakyn Anderson 1, Jen Stifter 4, Alyssa Peterson 2, Cierra Ahlf 11, Shelby Pihlaja 19, Olivia Ylineimi 2

3-point goals- Allebach, Lake, Pihlaja 4

Perham- Marina Reese 2, Amy Scheidecker 5, Josie Beachy 6, Michaela Sondag 4, Gabby DeBoer 6, Janie Wunderlich 8, Maria Rutten 29, Carolynn Baardsen 8

3-point goals- Scheidecker, Beachy, Rutten 3

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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