The biggest loss the past four years for Perham boys basketball was the 2020 postseason. The Yellowjackets open the season after a perfect but shortened 28-0 season with some unfinished business.

“That’s the first thing they brought up when we started practice,” said Perham head coach Dave Cresap. “We had last spring cut short, then the fall got cut short and we started again and then we got all these guidelines. We just want to start the season to see if we can regain some momentum that was taken away last spring.”

That momentum ended prior to a state-ranked battle against Fergus Falls at a jam-packed Memorial Auditorium at Concordia College for the section championship.

With the new season comes a chance to erase that disappointment and continue a four-year streak of nearly unbeatable basketball.

“They aren’t reliving anything from the past,” said Cresap. “It’s more of the joy of getting back on the court and they get to do something kind of normal. They’re just excited to be out there.”

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Jacket players should be. They’re used to winning.

Since 2016-17, the Yellowjackets have been dominant 114-7; only three of those losses have come in the regular season. The other four are section finals or at the state tournament.

Perham has a challenging schedule this season with the Heart O’ Lakes and some big games outside the conference.

“We probably have the best non-conference schedule; we’ve got as good of a schedule as anybody around,” Cresap said.

The Yellowjackets will play Moorhead, Esko, Detroit Lakes, Pequot Lakes and get a rematch with the Otters.

Cresap cited back-to-back games at Moorhead and at Fergus in early March as standouts on the calendar.

“Those will be quite the games and we’re going to find out real quickly with DL starting out,” Cresap said.

The Lakers and Jackets renew their rivalry in the season-opener for both teams at The Hive Thursday, Jan. 14.

One thing Perham has going is height in the paint with one of the taller teams Cresap has coached with four players six-foot-three to six-seven.

The Jackets have two offensive mainstays in the lineup with Elijah Morris (Concordia basketball recruit) sharpshooting from outside and Finn Diggins (NDSU football recruit) in the paint. Getting the rest of the team more experience to work around those two players will be key to the team’s success.

“It’s going to take us more time because of the layoffs that we had,” said Cresap. “For some of these role players it’s going to take some time. We’re going to suffer some defeats but I don’t think defeats are bad. I think it’s a good thing to see where we’re at. I don’t think you’re going to see many teams around here go 18-0. I highly doubt that.”

Grant McMartin drives the paint at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium last season in a victory over Detroit Lakes. Robert Williams / Forum News Service
Grant McMartin drives the paint at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium last season in a victory over Detroit Lakes. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

Cresap noted Gabe Thompson and Grant McMartin as players who have stepped it up in the early going. Marcus Belka put in a lot of time on his own with weights getting stronger.

“We’ve got three really nice sophomores and a couple juniors who could really help us,” said Cresap. “We’ve got some pieces to put together. It’s just going to take us longer.”

The Jackets have two offensive mainstays in the lineup with Elijah Morris (Concordia basketball recruit) sharpshooting from outside and Finn Diggins (NDSU football recruit) in the paint. Getting the rest of the team some experience to work around those two players will be key to the team’s success.

“We’re still feeling it out, Cresap said. “I think we’re going to be a deeper team than we have been in the past.” This is going to be a weird year with no basketball for so long and kids not being able to get in the gym or in shape. All those things put a lot of doubt in a lot of minds. I think the programs that are already established might have a little edge but I don’t think it’s a big edge.”

This season is also the 10th anniversary of Perham basketball’s greatest season ever with the 2011 state championship. That team created a story that keeps telling itself.

“It’s been brought up every year about this time,” Cresap said. “It was a historic event. Zach (Gabbard) and I were just in touch in the last week for his birthday. I don’t think it’s ever going to be forgotten. It’s something that really sticks out to many basketball fans.”