'I hope they had fun and enjoyed the ride:' Perham's season comes to an end in state consolation semifinals
The Perham boys basketball team saw its season come to an end on Wednesday night against Pequot Lakes in the state Class 2A consolation semifinal.
ST. PAUL – Perham head boys basketball coach Dave Cresap knows that his team's run to the Class 2A state tournament won't be defined by Wednesday's consolation semifinal loss to Pequot Lakes. Instead, it will be a group remembered for its ability to grow and do what's best to achieve the ultimate goal.
The Patriots (25-7) erased an eight-point first-half lead on their way to a 58-38 win at the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia-St. Paul. The win gives Pequot Lakes a shot at bringing home hardware on Thursday in the consolation championship, while simultaneously packing Perhams' (18-12) bags for the winter.
"Amazing team," Cresap said. "This is an amazing group of young men that overachieved all the way. We're not going to look at this last game as something that takes away from this season. We looked tired and out of sync. Give Pequot credit. When we were in the locker room, we reminisced about all of the good things that happened with this team and how important we are to each other. I hope they had fun and enjoyed the ride."
Perham found itself int he consolation bracket after a 51-40 loss to Caledonia on Tuesday night at the Target Center. Pequot Lakes, the champions of Section 7-2A, fell to third-seeded Annandale in to set up a rematch between the Yellowjackets and the Patriots.
On Feb. 17, Perham beat Pequot Lakes 52-35 on the road in a statement Class 2A win. Through 11:39 of the first half, it looked like Wednesday would be more of the same. Senior Chas Melvin nailed a three-pointer on top of a pair of triples from junior Soren Anderson to give the Yellowjackets a 22-14 lead.
From there, it was all Pequot Lakes. Junior Eli Laposky scored six of his game-high 23 points in the final 3:37 of the first half as the Patriots tied the game with a 10-2 going into the locker room.
The second half didn't get any better for the Yellowjackets. The 10-2 run grew to a 30-8 stretch and a 44-30 lead for Pequot Lakes. The Patriots' ability to rotate 10 players compared to Perham's six was the difference.
"They were gassed. We had three of them sucking air there in the second half," Cresap said. "It was tough (competing with Pequot's depth). We also had to exert a lot of energy against that Caledonia pressure. I didn't know what we'd have coming back today, and I found out we didn't have a lot. We were pretty good in the first half, but we ran out of gas, and they took advantage of it when we did."
Perham never climbed back within single digits. Pequot Lakes carried the lead into the final three minutes, where Cresap called a timeout to pull his starters from the game. Perham, a team that typically plays six players in close games, found time on the court for 13 guys as the season came to a close.
Juniors Micah Thompson, Jacob Daniels and Anderson came out of the game with 2:17 left on the clock. In a moment of humility, three of Perham's starters stood tall on the end of the bench to cheer on the reserves as they took the floor in a state tournament game. In the final seconds, Michael Schwantz banked the ball off the glass and in from 10-feet out as time expired. His teammates rushed the court to celebrate with the senior in his moment.
"That I was fantastic. I didn't tell them to do that. They did that on their own," Cresap said of the starters cheering on reserve players in the final minutes. "They stood up and cheered for their teammates as hard as their teammates cheered for them. For Mikey Schwantz to come in and score a basket at the buzzer in the state tournament was awesome. They won't remember this loss. They'll remember this experience."
Schwantz is one of six Yellowjackets who took off their uniform for a final time.
"We have six great seniors," Cresap said. "Connor Kostynick is a great teammate that didn't get to play all year because of an injury. Then you have Mikey Schwantz and Austin Aanenson, who played limited minutes for us. We obviously had Marcus Belka and Chas (Melvin), who played a lot of minutes for us as starters and had Josh Peterson come off the bench. He hit a shot on the Target Center floor last night. Those seniors are something."
Every senior class impacts a team's success, but Perham's was instrumental. For a team that was primarily led by juniors, it took a commitment to understanding the roles laid out for each senior on the roster to row the boat in the right direction all season long.
"It's really hard when you have a lot of seniors that aren't playing a ton that are still positive with the other guys. They did that," Cresap said. "We wouldn't have been where we're at if these seniors didn't settle into their roles. They were always there, came to practice and were ready to work. It's easy to do that when you're playing. It's not easy to do that when you play a sport since second grade, and you don't play a whole lot. Those six guys stuck with us. I commend them on their ability to accept their role and be good teammates."
Like all of the top teams in Section 8-2A, Perham's scoring isn't going away. Thompson, Anderson, Daniels and Alex Ohm are expected to return to the lineup next winter as the Yellowjackets go through the gauntlet with a target on their back.
"We're hoping this keeps them hungry," Cresap said of getting the state experience. "We could be pretty good again, but you know as well as I do that if they don't commit to getting better when it's time to get back to work, then the potential is lost. I think we'll get that leadership we need from the juniors that will be seniors. We have some hungry sophomores. I think we'll be OK, but time will tell. We'll be in the thick of it again."