It may have been the first game of the season for the Perham boys basketball team. It had the feel of a March clash when the Yellowjackets outlasted the Bemidji Lumberjacks 68-64 at the Hive on Dec. 3.

The Lumberjacks, a Class AAA state qualifier last year, brought with them a physical style that will help prep the Yellowjackets for another deep run in 2019-20. The Yellowjackets scored their final five points at the free throw line, securing the four-point victory over Bemidji.

The Lumberjacks used a strong inside attack and ball-pressuring defense to frustrate the inexperienced Yellowjackets. While many of the players have varsity experience, it was the first time several of the players dealt with the intensity of a varsity level contest.

“I’m so proud of the effort that our kids put in. That game was like a March game, it was two really, really solid basketball teams going at it,” Perham head coach Dave Cresap said. “We came up with a big possession when we needed it and we ran our stuff to perfection the last five minutes. Charlie Rasmussen stepped to the free throw line and made some key free throws, then we got the rebound to secure the win. What more could you ask out of high school kids. Our kids learned how to battle.”

Rasmussen led a trio of Yellowjackets in double figures. He finished with 22 points, while Finn Diggins added 21 and Elijah Morris finished with 19 points.

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“We didn’t come out super great and they punched us in the throat, but we got back at them,” Rasmussen said. “It was a battle with us going back and forth and we pulled it out in the end. We made some clutch free throws, which was good. They are a good team. They are a 3A team and we are 2A, so that’s a big win for us.”

Rasmussen finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. He was strong at the free throw line late when the Yellowjackets needed. He hit 10 of his 11 attempts at the line.

Diggins recorded the double-double for Perham, battling inside against a pair of physical bigs in Gavin Luksik and Colten Jensen. He hauled in a team-high of 12 rebounds for Perham, five of them on the offensive glass.

“He (Diggins) is such a versatile athlete,” Rasmussen said. “He can shoot the 3-pointer, he can dunk and he can hit the pull up shot. He is a tough player in general.”

Cresap said the Yellowjackets expected the Lumberjacks to be physical and that it would be that type of game. Cresap said they are a very aggressive team with really good guards. Cresap said it was an eye-opener for a couple of players, but said they settled in during the second half.

The Lumberjacks had three players finish in double figures as well. Jensen and Luksik finished with 16 points, while Quincy Wilson added 14 before fouling out late in the game.

Perham had the biggest lead in the first half at five points, but Bemidji was able to close the half strong and take a 32-31 lead into the break.

Bemidji carried the momentum into the second half and held the game’s biggest lead at seven points, 45-38, with 12:15 to go in the game. The run from Bemidji came after Diggins’ got the crowd on their feet with a dunk, cutting the lead to one at the time.

After Perham rallied to take the lead, Silas Hess answered with a 3-pointer. His triple was countered by a corner 3-pointer from Morris, giving Perham the 61-59 lead late.

The teams continued to exchange the lead but Perham grabbed it for good with 34.8 seconds to go when Rasmussen was able to get to the free throw line. He sunk both, and Perham held off for the four point win.

“We realized it was go time and we had to get back at them,” Rasmussen said. “We are going to keep working hard in practice and get ready for Mound-Westonka, who is ranked No. 8 in 3A. That will be another battle for us.”

The Yellowjackets are in the annual Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins on Dec. 7. The Yellowjackets will take on Mound-Westonka at 4:45 p.m.

BEM 32 32--64

PER 31 37--68

BEM-Quincy Wilson 14, James Williams 3, Isaiah Biehn 3, Ben Hess 4, Silas Hess 6, Matt Arel 2, Gavin Luksik 16, Colten Jensen 22

3-pointers: Wilson 2, Biehn, S. Hess 2. Free Throws: 21-29. Team Fouls: 19. Fouled Out: Wilson

PER-Charlie Rasmussen 22, Finn Diggins 21, Grant McMartin 2, Landon Stevens 2, Gavin Hillukka 2, Elijah Morris 19

3-pointers: Morris 5. Free Throws: 15-19. Team Fouls: 23. Fouled Out: Carter Aakre