Perham's boys basketball team has lost three straight section championship games. The Yellowjackets are well aware of this.
"It's something we've had to live with. Let's be real," said Perham senior Jenson Beachy, who started in all three section championship losses. "It's hit me hard. I think coming into my senior I didn't want to leave another loss behind in the section championship. We've definitely got the team and the makeup to make the state tournament."
No. 3-ranked Perham is headed back to the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship game for another crack at its first title since 2013. The Yellowjackets beat Barnesville 55-39 Friday at Concordia's Memorial Auditorium in the section semifinals.
"This group is a little bit different," Perham coach Dave Cresap said. "They have a different demeanor in school, practice, on the court, off the court. They're a hell of a bunch of kids. You gotta know who these kids are. They have a different look on their face. They got the right demeanor to do it."
Cresap talked about redemption in the locker room after last season's loss to Breckenridge in the section championship game.
"Redemption and hungriness," Cresap said. "I told them this year we gotta stay hungry. We're a good team. We're really good, but we can't get complacent because there's a lot of good teams out here."
Perham has been here before. The Yellowjackets will face a team they have beaten twice in the regular season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Concordia in the section championship. They saw that scenario twice in the last three seasons and lost both times. Just as they have been the previous two seasons, Perham will enter a section championship at Concordia ranked in the state playing against a team that isn't ranked. The Yellowjackets lost that scenario both times.
Perham is looking to change that narrative. The Yellowjackets are 79-11 in the previous three seasons, but its the three losses in section championship games that gets remembered.
"We can't listen to people when they say we've choked three years in a row. We can't listen to that," said Beachy, who finished with 15 points Friday. "We just have to look adversity right in the eyes and say we're going to beat it."
Barnesville (18-10) had a 15-14 lead midway through the first half, but Perham went on an 8-0 run to snatch the lead. Josh Jeziorski drilled a 3-pointer, Finn Diggins hit a layup and Elijah Morris capped the run with a 3-pointer of his own to put the Yellowjackets up 22-15. They would take a 28-20 lead into halftime.
Perham opened the second half with a 14-2 run capped with a 3-pointer from Jeziorski. The Yellowjackets forced six Barnesville turnovers in the first six minutes of the second half. The Trojans never recovered.
Jeziorski is fine with being reminded the Yellowjackets (28-1) have lost three section championships in a row.
"I think it builds character for us," said Jeziorski, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds Friday. "We don't dwell on it. We can face it. We look at the losses and we know we're going to come back this year and push back."
Perham played Friday's game for assistant coach Brian Schwantz, who found out 45 minutes before the game that his brother died after a battle with cancer.
"We did everything for him," Jeziorski said. "We have his back, he has our back. We're a family."
Halftime: Perham 28, Barnesville 20
B: Hinsz 16, Tonsfeldt 9, Henrickson 2, H. Zenzen 5, Inniger 5, K. Zenzen 2.
P: Beachy 15, Jeziorski 14, Diggins 15, Morris 11.