Perham, Wadena-DC ready for Section 8AA playoffs
Area teams return to the basketball floor for the annual Section 8AA playoffs, which begin in earnest on Feb. 27 at various sites.
The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines earned a spot in the quarterfinals with a 63-45 victory over Staples-Motley. It was a big bounce back win for the Wolverines, who were defeated by Staples-Motley to kick off the new season. Madison Carsten finished with 18 points, while Kennedy Gravelle added 16 and Lauryn Gravelle finished with 13.
“We played a good, well balanced game against Staples-Motley,” Wadena-DC head coach Jordan Cresap said. “I think the key to the victory was our fast start. We took a lead early and never looked back. Lauryn Gravelle did a nice job stepping up defensively for us. We did a good job on the boards, took care of the ball and played tough defensively.”
Now, the test gets tougher for the Wolverines. The Wolverines (15-12) will take on the No. 1 seed in the south subsection, Fergus Falls. The Otters posted a 22-4 mark in 2019-20 and are the No. 1 rated team in the QRF. Their lone defeats were to Wayzata, Minnetonka, Moorhead and Sauk Centre.
“I think it’s very clear that we have quite the challenge ahead in Fergus Falls. They are athletic, have deadly scorers and are very well coached,” Cresap said. “They pressure the ball really well and make things difficult on the offense. Defensively, we need to be completely locked into our game plan for the entire 36 minutes. We have to take care of the ball against pressure, and we need to rebound. We will have our hands full of course, but we are up to the challenge.”
The Otters return many of the key players from last season’s Section 8AAA Championship team and finished last year with a 23-6 record with their lone defeats to Albany, Alexandria, Willmar, Holy Angels and Hibbing.
The Perham Yellowjackets (16-10) earned the No. 3 seed and will open with Breckenridge (15-11). The Yellowjackets have struggled a bit heading into the postseason, dropping four of their last five games. The Yellowjackets swept the season series with the Cowgirls, defeating the Cowgirls 41-32 at the Hive and defeating them 63-58 in Breckenridge.
“It’s pretty crazy to get the three seed and have to host a team that was just on an eight game winning streak and has 15 wins,” Perham head coach T.J. Super said. “When we have been good this year, it was defense and rebounding. We have to do those things well against Breckenridge and hopefully further on into the playoffs.”
The Yellowjackets have three players averaging more than 10 points per game. Sydney Anderson averages 13.6 points per game, while Katie Johnson averages 12.9 points per game. Greta Hillukka averaged 13.8 points per game before she was lost due to an injury.
The Yellowjackets will need to be strong on the glass and be able to get their shots to drop if they hope to upend Breckenridge for the third straight time. Super said in a preseason interview that a 15 plus win team would have to open on the road and this year, two teams with 15 or more wins will start the playoffs on the road.
The Cowgirls had a seven game winning streak that started after their loss to Perham. However, the Cowgirls dropped their final three regular season games, all to Section 8AA opponents in Pelican Rapids, Hawley and Crookston.
The first round features several unique contests. Roseau (20-6) opens with Thief River Falls (6-20). The Rams defeated the Prowlers 68-35 and in their lone meeting during the season. The Rams closed with a pair of wins over Kittson County Central and East Grand Forks.
Park Rapids Area (12-14) opens on the road with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (9-16).
Crookston (20-6) plays host to East Grand Forks (11-15), while Pelican Rapids (25-0) hosts Barnesville (12-14). Menahga (19-7) hosts Frazee (13-12) in a first round game and Hawley (20-5) hosts Warroad (4-23).
The quarter finals will be on Feb. 29 at the Memorial Auditorium on the campus of Concordia-Moorhead. Game times are 1, 2:45, 4:30 and 6 p.m.