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Girls basketball: Perham fends off second half comeback attempt against Breckenridge

The Perham girls basketball team hung on to beat Breckenridge in a battle of unbeaten Heart O’Lakes Conference teams.

Willow Thiels goes up for the shot.JPG
Perham's Willow Thiel goes up for the shot in the Yellowjackets 63-55 win over Breckenridge on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nick Leonardell / Perham Focus
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PERHAM- The Perham girls basketball team found themselves up big at the end of the first half against Breckenridge Tuesday night.

The Cowgirls (9-1) fought back in the second half, but their efforts fell short. The Yellowjackets (10-1) held off Breckenridge’s comeback effort to win 63-55 to grab sole position of first place in the Heart O’Lakes Conference.

Perham’s Willow Thiel hit a buzzer-beater three to add a little more salt to the wound at the end of the first half, giving the Yellowjackets a 34-18 lead at the intermission.

“In the first half, we played some really good basketball. Our defense was amazing,” Perham head coach TJ Super said.

Olivia Rosenthal (1).JPG
Perham's Olivia Rosenthal fights for the ball in the Yellowjackets 63-55 win over Breckenridge on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Perham Focus

Perham cooled down in the second half. Breckenridge outscored the Yellowjackets 37-29. Super was happy the girls got a big enough lead in the first half, but also sees a need for improvement long term.

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“We kind of flew into a trend where in the second half, we let up and stopped doing the things that give us those nice leads,” Super said. “The good thing, of course, is that we are getting those big leads. Overall, our defensive intensity and intelligence kind of stopped a little bit, and we weakened up. If we want to make a long run in the playoffs, we have to be better at that. It’s nice to build a 20-point lead because when you do have that fall, you get a nice cushion to push for the win.”

Senior guard Olivia Rosenthal is Perham’s “defensive specialist.” Super praised Rosenthal’s defensive efforts throughout the whole game.

“They have a couple of girls who can score quite a bit, and when you can put a girl like Olivia Rosenthal on one of them, you know that girl isn’t going to score that much, and that makes things a lot easier,” he said. “We could’ve kept her out of foul trouble in the second half, which would’ve helped a little bit.”

Olivia Pilgrim.JPG
Perham's Olivia Pilgrim attempts to block Kelsey Ceroll's shot in the Yellowjackets 63-55 win over Breckenridge on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Perham Focus

Rosenthal loved how she and her teammates regrouped in the middle of the second half to close out a win.

“We said that we needed to calm down and regroup,” Rosenthal said. “Then, we called out who we had. Once we got defense going, everything took care of itself.”

The other senior guard, Mya Morris, had herself another good game. Perham needed her poise and leadership to rally the girls back to how they played in the first half.

“Mya Morris did a great job at controlling the game in the second half – being really smart with the ball and not forcing stuff,” Super said. “We made it a point to Mya to be the point guard on the court and get that ball swung, get it moving and run good offenses to get a good shot.”

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Morris ended the game with three points and five assists. Willow Thiel was the game’s leading scorer with 29 points. Thiel also added 12 rebounds and two steals. Kaia Anderson was Perham’s second-leading scorer with 12 points. Anderson grabbed five rebounds and knocked three triples.

Kennedy Pilgrim.JPG
Perham's Kennedy Pilgrim chases after a loose ball in the Yellowjackets 63-55 win over Breckenridge on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nick Leonardelli / Perham Focus

Both teams were undefeated in Heart O’Lakes Conference play. Perham extended its winning streak to three games, while the Cowgirls fell for the first time this season.

“I wouldn’t call it a statement,” Super said. “It was our goal at the beginning of the season to win the conference. We won it last year for the first time in 30 years. The plan for this year was to win it again. We know we are going to have a target on our backs, and rightfully so. People should be gunning for us. We have a nice team this year, and I expect everyone is going to play their best basketball against us.”

Rosenthal is all for team success this season.

“We are here for it,” she said. “There are a lot of really good teams in the conference, and we are one of them. It’s really exciting to see that and be part of it. “

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“We have another tough one on Friday against Hawley, who we haven’t seen,” Super said. “We have to work our way through the conference once again. Breckenridge is good. Pelican (Rapids) is good. Hawley is good. Barnesville is good. Everyone is good in the conference, so it’s competitive, good and it gets you tested for playoffs.”

PER 34 29- 63

BKR 18 37- 55

PERHAM- Willow Thiel: 29 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals; Kaia Anderson: 12 points, 5 rebounds; Cora Grismer: 9 points; Olivia Pilgrim: 8 points; Mya Morris: 3 points, 5 assists; Olivia Rosenthal: 2 points

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