The Perham Yellowjackets were back to full strength Wednesday in their 55-40 win over Barnesville, meaning they will advance to the 8AA section championship game against Fergus Falls on Friday, March 26.
Seniors Elijah Morris and Caden Schossow were cleared to play Wednesday after being quarantined for the first few games of the playoffs.
Morris said it felt great to be back on the court with his team. "It felt so amazing being out there with my brothers again, and it was just so fun," Morris said. "The atmosphere was amazing, so it was awesome to be back."
It was difficult for him to watch the games when he couldn't play, Morris said. "It was hard, but I didn't have a doubt in my mind we weren't going to win because I knew my teammates were going to pull through, and they did."
Head coach Dave Cresap was also happy that both Morris and Caden Schossow were back for the game. "It was great to have Elijah back," Cresap said. "He came back, he must have reset his mind, reset his body, and he was ready to go and had a nice game for us coming back. I thought Caden Schossow gave us some minutes tonight too, coming back."
Senior Finn Diggins talked about the leadership Morris and Schossow bring to the court. "We started off slow, and then Elijah hit those mid-range pull-up shots that just kept us going," Diggins said. "If he wouldn't have hit those, then who knows where we would have been at the half. And Caden came off the bench and played great defense and he gave us just what we needed."
Despite having the full team back, they struggled to make a lot of shots in the first half, which Cresap credits partially to Barnesville's defense. "We made some adjustments in the second half," Cresap said. "We got the ball in Finn's hands, and we made some easy baskets. Grant McMartin also stepped up tonight in his aggressiveness - he had a big steal toward the end of the game, and we have to commend those players."
The sixth player on the Yellowjackets team was the fans. They came out with signs ready to cheer on their team. "We commend them for all the noise they made and all the support and signs - it's been a great run for us.," Cresap said.
Diggins gave the fans even more credit. "It's always great to have our fans in The Hive," he said. "None of us seniors have ever lost a game in Perham since I was in eighth grade, and it all just comes back to our community and who fills The Hive," he said. "We're just very thankful we have such a supportive fan base."
The Yellowjackets trailed the Trojans by two points at halftime, but came back big in the second half and outscored the Trojans 36-19, clinching their berth in the championship game.
Looking to Friday's matchup with Fergus Falls, Cresap said, "We have to be ready to execute and we have to be really careful about shot selection. We're going to go at them, we're going to defend them, and we'll see what happens."
Diggins knows the game against Fergus is going to be a tough one. "Fergus is a great team, don't get me wrong," Diggins said, "but I'm never going to doubt our team."
The Section 8AA championship between Perham and Fergus Falls will be at Pelican Rapids High School Friday, March 26, with tip-off at 7:05.