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Minneapolis North denies Perham a shot at AA title

Perham's Jenson Beachy is swarmed by a trio of Minneapolis North defenders on his way to the basket during the Class AA Semifinals at Target Center. Jason Groth / Forum News Service

The Perham Yellowjackets struggled to overcome Minneapolis North’s speed and pace in the opening minutes when the Polars ran out to an 18-2 lead on its way to a 62-46 victory in the Class AA boys basketball semifinals at the Target Center on March 22.

The Polars used their speed to create havoc and set the tempo of the first half against the Yellowjackets. The Polars had four players finish in double figures with Nasir El-Amin leading the way with 13 points. Davon Townley Jr. added 12, while Willie Wilson finished with 11 and Eli Campbell added 10.

“Their defensive pressure caused us a lot of problems early,” Perham head coach Dave Cresap said. “We couldn’t get many open looks. I thought we were tentative at the beginning of the game. After that run, we got after it and played pretty well. But, they are so good defensively, we had to work for every open shot that we had and we didn’t make them when we had them. We kept battling, got it down to 12 and had an open three, but we couldn’t make the big shot and make them scramble a bit.”

Josh Jeziorski led Perham with 15 points, while Finn Diggins finished with 14 points and Jenson Beachy added 11. Beachy said North’s athleticism and speed was something they are not used to seeing.

Josh Jeziorski

“There are a lot of people in the stands that wish they could be in our place,” Beachy said. “We just didn’t play our best game. After the start of the game, we started battling and competed hard. We stuck with them, but we need to play all 36 minutes tomorrow night.”

North’s strong defense frustrated the Yellowjackets, who normally shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line. The Yellowjackets were just 18.8 percent from three, hitting three of their 16 attempts.

Cresap said the speed of the game in the early minutes got to the Yellowjackets. He said the team started to play quicker than they wanted.

“You have to give them credit. They took away a lot of our strengths,” Cresap said. “We are a pretty good 3-point shooting team and they knew that going in. I was pretty proud of the times when Finn Diggins took it strong to the rim and created opportunities. Kids have to understand when things are taken away, you have to go make plays because your offense is taken away. At times we did that very well. I’m very proud of this team. They achieved a lot and we have to rebound tomorrow and get that third place win and end on a positive for these seniors, because they are a great bunch of guys.”

Whenever Perham worked to cut the lead down, North had an answer and stretched it back out. Perham cut it to 12 in the opening minutes of the half, but North answered back, scoring six of the next eight points, bringing the lead back to 16 points.

The Yellowjackets dropped their season record to 30-2 overall with their lone losses coming to the top two teams in Class AA. They were defeated by Minnehaha Academy during their second game of the season and now Minneapolis North.

In a back-and-forth game Saturday, Lake City prevailed in the final minutes with a 51-47 victory over the Perham in the Class AA Third Place game at the Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul.

PER 15 31--46

MN 31 31--62

PER- Jenson Beachy 11, Charlie Rasmussen 4, Josh Jeziorski 15, Finn Diggins 14, Carter Cresap 2.

3-pointers: Jeziorski 3 Free Throws: 5-9. Team Fouls:12. Fouled Out: None

MN-Omar Brown 7, Eli Campbell 10, Nasi El-Amin 13, Wilie Wilson 11, Davon Townley Jr. 12, Clifford Brown III 9.

3-pointers: 5-15. Free Throws: 1-4. Team Fouls: 10. Fouled Out: None

LC 24 27--51

PER 22 25--47

LC- Nathan Heise 23, Justin Wohlers 8, Reid Gastner 17, Ethan Hietman 1, Josh Matanich 2.

3-pointers: Heise, Wohlers 2, Gastner 3. Free Throws: 9-13 Team Fouls: 8 Fouled Out: None

PER- Jenson Beachy 19, Charlie Rasmussen 2, Josh Jeziorski 8, Finn Diggins 18.

3-pointers: Beachy, Jeziorski 2. Free Throws: 6-6 Team Fouls: 15 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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