The Perham Yellowjackets are one game closer to the state tournament after defeating the East Grand Forks Green Wave 61-43 in the quarterfinal round Saturday, March 20, in Perham. The No. 2 seed Yellowjackets will host the No. 3 seed Barnesville Trojans in the semifinal game Wednesday, March 24, at 7 p.m., and they hope to have their quarantined players back by then.
Seniors Elijah Morris and Caden Schossow have yet to see playoff action because they are quarantined, which the team has used as extra incentive to win. According to senior Gabe Thompson, "It's kind of been extra motivation [having them out] because we want to get to where they can come back," he said. "We hope Elijah and Caden can both play because they're both seniors." With them out, "We've just had to adjust and other players have stepped up," Thompson said.
It is unclear yet whether Morris and Schossow will be available for Wednesday's semifinal game. According to head coach Dave Cresap, they will be tested for COVID Sunday and their availability will depend on those results. "They may or may not be back for Wednesday's game," Cresap said. "We're hopeful because they are our seniors, and we've got to get them back on the court."
In Saturday's game, Perham got off to a slow start against East Grand Forks, allowing the Green Wave to take an early lead, which they held on to until there were about two minutes left in the first half. At that point, the Yellowjackets took a 20-19 lead, which they expanded on for the remainder of the game. The slow start, however, did have Cresap concerned.
"It was worrisome at the beginning," Cresap said. "I think we shot quick shots, but we were pretty nervous. We fell behind early because of that and we weren't making those quick shots, so that led to some good baskets for them."
Cresap continued, "Once we settled and got the lead, then we never lost it. We just stretched it out gradually."
The Yellowjackets defense was solid once again, and Cresap was pleased not only because the Green Wave were held to 43 points, but also because the Yellowjackets, specifically Micah Thompson, were able to hold East Grand Forks' leading scorer, Sam Totava, to just 14 points.
"Overall the defensive effort was good," Cresap said. "We have to iron some things out offensively before Wednesday, but we'll get it straightened out."
Senior Soren Anderson was one player who stepped up offensively in Saturday's game. He scored 16 points for the Yellowjackets, and he also had five rebounds and two assists.
"I think it was a great win for us," Anderson said. "It's a great boost for us coming into the next game and it gives us some momentum."
Another perennial standout player for the Yellowjackets was senior Finn Diggins. He had a double double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also went 8-8 in free throws and had two assists and three steals in the game. Even with his own standout play, Diggins always puts the team first.
Referring to the team's slow start, Diggins said, "We didn't let the slow start get the best of us for the game. I'm very proud of how we matched their intensity because they were coming at us right from the get go. Once shots started falling again, we were playing like we know how to play. It was a good game and we're going to keep on going for it."
The semifinal game against the Trojans, who defeated No. 2 seed Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 59-56 to advance, will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. In the first meeting in Barnesville on January 22, the Yellowjackets lost to the Trojans 67-53. However, in the second meeting on Feb. 25, the Yellowjackets won 64-51. The Trojans finished the season with a record of 12-8.
The semifinal game will be held at The Hive in Perham at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, and the winner moves on to the Section 8AA championship game Friday, March 26.
EGF 19 24 - 43
PER 24 37 - 61
EGF-Joey Votava 2, Carter Vasek 5, Sam Votava 14, Tanner Campos 14, Cole Gerber 4, Tommy Loer 2, Tyson Mahar 2
3-pointers: Vasek, S. Votava, 1, Campos 2. Free Throws: 7-11. Team Fouls: 18.
PER-Micah Thompson 9, Chas Melvin 2, Soren Anderson 16, Finn Diggins 20, Grant McMartin 5, Gabe Thompson 9
3-pointers: Anderson, McMartin, Thompson, 1. Free Throws: 16-20. Team Fouls: 12.