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Perham advances to state semifinals

Perham's Josh Jeziorski soars through the lane on his way to the hoop during the Class AA quarterfinals at Williams Arena on March 20. Jason Groth / Forum News Service

The Perham Yellowjackets used a 14-4 run to start the second half and kept the pressure on when it picked up a 73-58 victory over Redwood Valley during the Class AA Quarterfinals at Williams Arena on March 20.

The Yellowjackets (30-1) used a dominant performance on the interior, getting the Cardinals (16-12) into foul trouble early. The Yellowjackets held a 36-21 edge on the glass and a 15-3 edge on the offensive boards.

“It was a really fun game,” Charlie Rasmussen said. “It feels awesome to come down here and win a game at state. It’s amazing.”

The Yellowjackets’ balance was too much for the Cardinals. Perham had four players finish in double figures. Rasmussen finished with 19 points, while Jenson Beachy and Finn Diggins finished with 15 points each. Josh Jeziorski ended with 14.

After a sluggish start, the Yellowjackets started attacking inside and took a 23-13 lead. However, Redwood Valley, led by Cole Woodford’s 25 points, charged back and cut the lead to one. With the clock winding down in the first half, Carter Cresap sank a deep 3-pointer, swinging the momentum back Perham’s way.

“I felt that three did change the momentum a bit going into the half,” Cresap said. “Coming into the second half, we started really well and got our lead going a bit.”

The Yellowjackets stormed out of the gates in the second half with a 14-4 run, building the lead up to 42-28. The Yellowjackets did so by attacking inside the lane. They hit 24 of their 35 free throw attempts, while Redwood Valley was just three of five from the line.

“They are a good team and we knew we couldn’t take them for granted with their record,” Perham’s Jenson Beachy said. “It’s the state tournament and anyone can win on any given night. They came out ready to go, but Cresap’s 3-pointer was huge momentum going into the second half.”

Josh Jeziorski finished grabbed 13 rebounds, while Diggins hauled in 12 rebounds, recording double-double’s for Perham. The duo was all over the glass with 25 of the team’s 36 rebounds. While the Yellowjackets are usually a strong 3-point shooting team, this time they attacked inside, showcasing their advantage in the paint. Perham hit just three of its 14 3-pointers.  

“A lot of team’s watch film on us and think that we are a good 3-point shooting team, which we are, but we have the ability to take the ball to the hoop at any given point,” Beachy said. “We can finish at the rim and make free throws, too.”

Perham head coach Dave Cresap was happy with the team’s effort. Cresap said he told the kids to relax after the slow start which had the Yellowjackets in an early 8-1 hole.

“I thought we came out like beasts on the defensive end in that second half,” Cresap said. “Woodford is a heck of a player and we made him earn his shots. Diggins and Jeziorski did a great job on the glass. It was a total team effort. We had balanced scoring. You have a team effort and when everyone contributes in their own ways, that’s how you win games. The team is what it is all about, it doesn’t matter who scores all the points, it’s if we win that game and they did.”

The Yellowjackets will now play in the Class AA quarterfinals on March 22 at 8 p.m. when they take on Minneapolis North. The Polars defeated the Eskomos 61-53 in the evening’s prior quarterfinal.

RV 24 34--58

PER 28 45--73

RV-Connor Josephson 1, Cole Woodford 23, Bronson Smith 10, Kyle Huhnerkoch 12, Colin Wells 2, Bryant Haas 5, Alex Lang 5

3-pointers: Woodford 5, Smith 2, Haas, Lang, Free Throws: 3-5 Team Fouls: 27 Fouled Out: None

PER-Jenson Beachy 15, Charlie Rasmussen 19, Josh Jeziorski 14, Finn Diggins 15, Carter Cresap 7, Elijah Morris 3

3-pointers: Beachy, Cresap, Morris. Free Throws: 24-35. Team Fouls: 14. Fouled Out: None

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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