Girls basketball: Jackets punch ticket to Section 8AA final four after big second half against Otters

While Fergus Falls kept it competitive for most of the first half, Perham pulled away in its Section 8AA quarterfinal, never to be caught again.

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Perham senior Mya Morris drives to the hoop with a Fergus Falls defender attempting to block her path on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Tris Anderson / Perham Focus

PERHAM — The top-seeded Perham girls basketball team took down the No.8 Fergus Falls Otters 77-52 in Perham’s final home game of the season on Saturday, March 4, in the quarterfinals of the Section 8AA tournament.

Although the Yellowjackets outpaced Fergus Falls by 25 points in the end, the Otters made them work for that margin in the first half.

For roughly the first 15 minutes of the game, it was a struggle to pull away, with Perham only holding a slim 2-4 point lead over Fergus Falls. At one point, Fergus Falls managed to briefly usurp the lead, although it was short-lived.

The Otters were effective in shutting down Perham’s most lethal shooters for most of the first half.

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Perham senior Olivia Rosenthal goes for a rebound while surrounded by Fergus Falls defenders on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Tris Anderson / Perham Focus

“We’ve been knowing that a team was going to try and take away Willow (Thiel) and Mya (Morris) completely,” Perham head coach TJ Super said. “We know that we have a lot of depth. We know that we have a lot of good players on the team, but we knew at some point someone would just completely try to do it. … Basically, they were successful in some sense, and our girls stepped up. Our bench is amazing.”


Despite the Otters finding some success in that strategy, it didn’t stop Thiel — who seemed to be a foul magnet under the basket — from scoring at the charity stripe, going 7-of-7. In total, Thiel scored 11 points in the first half.

However, the Otters’ defense fell apart in the twilight minutes of the half, and Perham seized the opportunity, carving out a 13-point lead and taking a 43-30 into the locker room.

“I think the girls just stepped up and made plays and I thought we got some stops on defense and we got some runouts, and when you turn stops into scores, the lead jumps up pretty quickly when you can string those together. And we did a really good job of that,” Super said.

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Perham's Cora Grismer drives to the basket with a Fergus Falls defender on her heels on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Tris Anderson / Perham Focus

While Morris and Thiel were locked down, Cora Grismer took the opportunity to shine, scoring the most points in the first half with 12, nine of which were made from beyond the arc. Kaia Anderson had the third most points in the half with a total of seven.

The Otters couldn’t reconfigure their defense once the wheels fell off, and were overpowered by the Yellowjackets in a convincing fashion in the second half.

The Yellowjackets’ second-half lead ebbed and flowed throughout the 18 minutes of play, but didn’t drop below double-digits.

“We basically cut their scoring in half in the second half,” Super said. “We scored a bunch of points in the first half, but it was still a game, and it wasn’t until our defense picked up that we were able to put it away.”

Thiel, so carefully guarded at the start, found more scoring opportunities in the field and put up another 10 points in the second half for a game-high 21 points.


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Perham's Willow Thiel gears up to take a shot as Fergus Falls defenders swarm her on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Tris Anderson / Perham Focus

Grismer scored the second most points in the last half with a total of six and 18 overall. Morris, Kaia Anderson and Kennedy Pilgrim each had five points in the second half.

The Yellowjackets took home the win, and will face off against fifth-seeded Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Wednesday, March 8, at Detroit Lakes High School.

Perham narrowly defeated DGF 49-41 in January and beat them 60-36 early last month.

“They hold everybody down defensively to their lowest scoring totals of pretty much the entire season,” Super said of DGF. “So we need to find ways to score against their zone, but we really need to tighten up our defense too.”

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Perham's Kennedy Pilgrim makes a move to the basket on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Tris Anderson / Perham Focus

With Saturday’s win, the Yellowjackets now have a shot to make good on last year’s Section 8AA semifinal exit against Menahga.

“We’re just excited,” Super said. “It was good for the four seniors to go out with a win on the home court in the last game, but we’re excited to go to the semifinals. We were there last year but we weren’t able to get it done. We’re anxious to try to take that next step.”

FF 30 22 – 52

PHS 43 34 – 77


FF SCORING – Julia Hajicek 8, Ruby Ellison 4, Jenna Carlson 9, Karley Braeger 5, Brynn Sternberg 9, Cyntreya Lockett 3, Hattie Fullhart 8, Karyssa Eberle 4.

PHS SCORING – Mya Morris 7, Cora Grismer 18, Olivia Rosenthal 3, Kaia Anderson 12, Kennedy Pilgrim 10, Willow Thiel 21, Ryleigh Mickelson 6.

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