Girls basketball: Perham punches ticket to Section 8AA finals after taking down No. 5 DGF
The Perham girls basketball team pulled away in the second half in its blowout victory against Dilworth-Gylndon-Felton in the Section 8AA semi-finals on Wednesday night.
DETROIT LAKES – For the first time under head coach TJ Super, the Perham girls basketball team will compete in the Section 8AA finals after its dominating victory over No. 5 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Wednesday, March 8.
The Yellowjackets defeated the Rebels 54-36 and are now a game away from a state tournament berth for the first time in over three decades.
“I am really proud of the girls who really grinded and gutted out this win,” Super said. “We had said at some point that we weren’t going to shoot well. Teams are going to try and take away what we do well on offense. Tonight was one of those nights where it was kind of a struggle and nothing came easy.”
Super had high praises for DGF and their efforts in the game.
“Head coach Sunde and his staff do a great job of getting their girls ready,” he said. “We told ourselves if we wanted to win this thing, we needed to do it on the defensive side of the court. We didn’t start very well after a couple of possessions but after that, we got very good. Our defense was quite outstanding tonight.”
Senior guard Mya Morris was elated about the win but knows that the job isn’t done.
“I was really happy,” she said. “We have been wanting to get to the section finals for a while since Super hasn't had a team do it yet. We have one more game to win to achieve one of our goals, which is to make it to state.”
DGF started with an early 5-0 lead after a couple of bad possessions by Perham. The Yellowjackets responded with a 13-0 run to grab a seven-point lead with nine minutes left in the half. DGF kept the score within a possession until Perham opened things up in the closing minutes and went into the intermission with a 25-20 lead.
Both teams traded buckets to begin the second half until Perham started to pull away with a 7-0 run around the 12-minute mark to extend the Yellowjackets' lead to 37-24. The run proved crucial as Perham would shut down the Rebels, allowing just 12 DGF points for the rest of the game. The Yellowjackets surrendered just 16 second-half points to the Rebels.
“I said at half that a run was coming and it was something that we have done every single game,” Super said. “We have been saying all season that the law of averages works its way out. We are a good shooting team and we know that we are going to make some shots eventually. We understand that once we pick up the tempo a little bit that things will go in our favor. I think the energy from the bench was great. The crowd was magnificent once again. Those things all factored into that run and once we got a double-digit lead, it felt like it was over.”
Morris, who finished the game with three points, credited the Yellowjackets’ second-half performance to her team’s mental toughness.
“I think it was just patience,” she said. “Defensively we were doing good and offensively, we couldn’t really get anything going. We knew eventually it would come so we kept working hard.”
Willow Thiel has been accustomed to monster performances all season and she had yet another one against DGF. She finished with a game-high 29 points and 10-of-17 (60%) from the free throw line. It was the Perham supporting cast that played a big role in the win.
“I thought our bench was great once again,” Super said. “Kennedy Pilgrim, Kaia Anderson and Ryleigh Mickelson were great in help defense tonight. I thought Cora Grismer and Olivia Rosenthal played amazing on-ball defense. Mya obviously is a weapon and when she isn’t shooting, she is pulling someone way out of position. When you look at it, it was a really great team effort.”
Anderson finished her night with 10 points. Eight different Yellowjackets contributed to their 54 points.
The Yellowjackets are just a game away from their first state tournament appearance since 1991. A section title is now a reality for Perham, but competing in the state tournament has been the ultimate destination.
“It’s hard to say that we saw ourselves in this position but we definitely did,” Super said about making the section finals. “At the start of the season, it was definitely one of our goals to win a section title. After these wins, we aren’t cheering like we won state because that is our ultimate goal. We worked hard all summer for this. You hope to get to this point and things have to work in your favor,, like staying healthy. In the last few years, we have had one of our best players injured and I feel like we could've been in this position earlier. We are here now, having fun and taking care of business.’
For Morris, hearing that the Yellowjackets are in the section finals and a win away from a state tournament trip is like music to her ears.
“It is awesome,” she said. “It’s been all of our goals since summer and that’s what we have been working towards all year. We have been going at it in practice every single day, so we are all super excited.”
PER 25 29- 54
DGF 20 16- 36
PERHAM SCORING- Mya Morris 3, Cora Grismer 5, Olivia Rosenthal 2, Kaia Anderson 10, Greta Raser 1, Kennedy Pilgrim 1, Willow Thiel 29, Ryleigh Mickelson 3
DILWORTH-GLYNDON-FELTON SCORING- Lola Garrett 2, MaKayla Weaver 5, MaKayla Bjelland 14, Peyton Backes 8, Kaleigh Peterson 3, Aria Garrett 4