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Perham returns to the Section 8AA Championship

Barnesville's Kellen Hinsz and Hunter Zenzen take on Perham's Finn Diggins in a scramble for a loose ball during the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys basketball tournament semifinals at Concordia on Friday, March 15. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Perham's Elijah Mooris grabs a loose ball from Barnesville's Kellen Hinsz during the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys basketball tournament semifinals at Concordia on Friday, March 15. David Samson/Forum News Service2 / 2

The Perham Yellowjackets are back in a familiar spot. The Yellowjackets returned to the Section 8AA Championship game for the fourth straight season with a 55-39 victory over Barnesville on March 15 at Concordia-Moorhead.

“I thought our kids came out and persevere through a lot of adversity,” Perham head coach Dave Cresap said. “It was the first time in 34 years were three guys were being chased. I don’t think there is an offense you can build for that. You have to have other guys play and step up. Elijah Morris came off and got some baskets. I will give Todd (Hendrickson) credit, that’s probably the only way they could play with us. They took our big three out of the game and the other kids stepped up, got transition and got things going.”

Perham's Finn Diggins battles for a rebound against Barnesville's Hunter Zenzen.

Jenson Beachy and Finn Diggins finished with 15 points each, while Josh Jeziorski finished with 14 and Elijah Morris added 11.

The Yellowjackets used an 8-0 run to erase a 15-14 deficit in the first half. Jeziorski started the run with a 3-pointer, followed by Diggins attacking inside and a 3-pointer from Morris.

“We played really well. I thought our defense was really well,” Jeziorski said. “They came out with something different for us in the first half, but we overcame it. Our younger guys stepped up, our older guys stepped up and it was a great team effort.”

Perham's Jenson Beachy shoots to score over Barnesville's Adam Tonsfeldt.

The Yellowjackets stretched the lead out as the half moved on and a key momentum swing came in the closing minute. Perham dribbled the ball out and Diggins drove to the hoop for the final points of the first half, giving Perham 28-20 lead at the half. Diggins and Jenson Beachy led Perham in scoring with 15 points each.

“They threw some wrinkles at us and their head coach did a good job of getting them ready to go defensively,” Beachy said. “We had a lot of guys step up in Diggins, Elijah Morris and Charlie Rasmussen. We knew our bench guys would be ready to go if their name was called upon.”

The end of the first half was precursor for Perham. They came out scoring 14 of the first 16 points. The Yellowjackets outscored Barnesville 27-19 in the second half. Diggins played a key role in the interior for Perham, limiting Barnesville in the paint for much of the game. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

“It was a great atmosphere. Everyone played well and everyone shot well. The fans were amazing and it was a great experience,” Diggins said. “We had to finish as strong as we can and always work your hardest.”

Kellen Hinsz led the way for Barnesville with 16 points, Adam Tonsfeldt finished with nine. The Trojans hit on 42 percent of their shots and were 12.5 percent from the 3-point line in the loss.

The Yellowjackets are back in a familiar spot as they return to the Section 8AA Championship for the fourth straight year, searching their first win in that span. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Breckenridge defeated Perham during that stretch.

“There is definitely going to be some adversity for us that we have to recognize,” Beachy said. “We have to go out and face it. It’s been three years in a row that we have lost in the section championship, so we know that nothing is going to come easy. We know that people are going to argue that we have choked the last three years, I think this team is ready to go.”

Beachy said it’s extra motivation for the section championship game for the Yellowjacket team.

“We don’t want to leave that mark on our senior year and end our season with another loss in the section championship,” Beachy said. “We have to come out ready to go. No matter who the opponent is, we have to show up, ready to go and possibly make a run.”

Perham played Friday's game for assistant coach Brian Schwantz, who found out 45 minutes before the game that his brother died after a battle with cancer.

"We did everything for him," Jeziorski said. "We have his back, he has our back. We're a family."

Barnesville ends its season with an 18-10 record, while Perham improved its mark to 28-1 overall.

Perham will play Hawley or DGF in the Section 8AA Championship game on March 16 at 7 p.m. at Concordia.

Chris Murphy from the Fargo Forum also contributed to this report.

BAR 20 19--39

PER 28 27--55

BAR-Kellen Hinsz 16, Grant Inniger 5, Adam Tonsfeldt 9, Jason Hendrickson 2, Kaden Zenzen 2, Hunter Zenzen 5

3-pointers: Hinsz, Inniger, Tonsfeldt. Free Throws: 4-9. Team Fouls: 10 Fouled Out: None

PER-Jenson Beachy 15, Josh Jeziorski 14, Finn Diggins 15, Elijah Morris 11.

3-pointers: Beachy, Jeziorski 2, Morris 3. Free Throws: 3-10. Team Fouls: 10 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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