Boys basketball: Anderson shines as Perham avenges early-season loss against Barnesville
Soren Anderson's 28 points highlighted 60-55 Heart O'Lakes Conference win over Barnesville on Thursday night.
PERHAM – Soren Anderson picked up a loose ball near midcourt and sprinted to the rim. Five minutes into the second half, his dunk gave the Perham boys basketball team a 10-point lead in a pivotal Section 8-2A and Heart O'Lakes Conference game against Barnesville.
While the lead shrunk, the Yellowjackets (8-4) wouldn't relinquish on their way to a 60-55 win. Anderson's dunk was two of his game-high 28 points.
"This is what we practice for every day," Anderson said on his 28-point night. "We work hard to get better. My teammates should get all of the flowers for it because they set me up, and the bench gets me going. They give me the energy to come out and do it."
On Dec. 10, Perham fell to Barnesville (9-5) 57-52 in overtime, which was its first loss of the season. The Yellowjackets were out-rebounded by 13 on the road in the first meeting. They made it a point to showcase their toughness in the paint against two of the premier big men in Section 8-2A. Despite 33 combined points from Kaden Zenzen and Tate Inniger, the Trojans struggled to score against Perham's hard-nosed defense.
"That's something that comes out of the hours and hours we put in during practice," Anderson said of the defensive effort. "(Perham head coach Dave Cresap) is the best coach to get anybody prepared for a game. I've been watching him since I was in kindergarten, and I've looked up to him. He prepares us better than any coach in the world could."
The first eight minutes were a defensive tug-of-war until junior Alex Ohm came in off the bench and scored six points to help the Yellowjacket pull ahead.
"We need that offensive guy that can come off the bench and score for us, and tonight he did that," Cresap said. "He got us going. He can score in bunches. I thought he had a really solid game off the bench. He's handling the ball better now, and he's getting stronger. Earlier in the season, I thought he was still trying to find his groove. Now he's doing the things we need."
Ohm sparked the Perham offense to a 15-8 run. During that stretch, Anderson hit two of his four threes to send Perham to the locker room with a 34-26 lead after the first half.
"We were able to withstand a little bit of their physical play," Cresap said. "They're such a physical team that really gets after you defensively. We had some kids, in the right moments, attack that pressure. I thought Soren did a great job of attacking their pressure at the rim. We shot the ball a little bit better this time. We missed everything (at Barnesville). We made a few shots and got them out of that zone."
Perham started the second half the same way they ended the first. Anderson's dunk helped the Yellowjackets gain a 14-point lead.
"When they get on a roll, they play with such confidence," Cresap said. "They're starting to find a way to play at varsity speed and in physical games. If these guys can see how we play and get that momentum going, I think we're going to gel pretty well. We have to get our role players to be stars in their roles."
Barnesville cut the deficit to seven points with under three minutes left in regulation. Zenzen and Inniger started to find more succession wearing down Perham defenders in the post. Zach Bredman also made a pair of three-pointers late in the second half to cut into the Yellowjackets' lead.
"Those guys are awesome, and they're really nice kids," Anderson said of Zenzen and Inniger. "They're the type of kids that if they get a position on you, they're probably going to score. They're so tough to stop. It's one of those things where you know they're going to score. You just have to do your best to slow them down and take away the other guys."
The Trojans sent the Yellowjackets to the free-throw line on back-to-back possessions with under two minutes left. Each time resulted in a missed front end of a 1-and-1 attempt. However, Anderson and Marcus Belka came up with offensive rebounds to steal both possessions and choked time off the clock.
"(Barnesville) is big and strong inside," Cresap said. "They took it to us a little bit there at the end, and that's a credit to them… We're not big. We're long, but we're not big. I thought we did a good job overall to withstand that inside play. Marcus did a great job of tipping that ball out and getting us another possession, and that's what I liked about tonight. We had guys on the floor trying to take charges. We only got out-rebounded by one. This is a good win."
Perham has a tough stretch of games following Thursday's win over Barnesville. Six of the Yellowjackets' next eight games are against teams with a combined record of 49-18.
"Our schedule is so brutal," Cresap said. "It should sharpen us up if we can grab some wins and play in close games. I think we can pick up enough wins to keep spirits high. Even if we only win 13 games in the regular season, this is a team that's going to get ready for March madness. Hopefully, we get a good enough seed so we don't draw such a tough opponent early.
Avenging an early-season loss against Barnesville keeps Perham's hopes alive for the Heart O'Lakes Conference championship. With a 3-2 record and plenty of conference games left on the schedule, the Yellowjackets are looking to make up ground while aiming to peak at the right time.
"We're always learning and fighting through adversity," Anderson said. "We had two home losses and really pulled together and got the win tonight. (Barnesville) is in our conference, so it's a big win for us. We have goals, and a conference championship is one of them. This group can do special things. We're only going to get better."
Thursday's win was not only a step in the right direction in the conference standings but also for team morale. After a couple of tough losses at home to St. Peter (9-9) and Fergus Falls (7-7), getting back in the win column is a confidence booster against a good Barnesville team.
"We have the will," Cresap said. "I hope we've instilled in everyone that we're not going to back down from anyone. You'll always be able to find somebody better than you, but you can't back down to them or anyone. You have to make them respect you. You never lose a game in high school basketball. You either win, or you learn. We didn't lose on Saturday against St. Peter, we learned what we need to do better, and we saw that tonight."