Perham forward Finn Diggins saw the shot go up and sprinted towards the basket. Once the shot didn’t go in, Diggins was there for the putback, giving Perham a 62-60 lead on its way to a 65-63 victory over East Grand Forks in the Section 8AA semifinals at Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead on March 11.
It was one of many key plays the Yellowjackets made down the stretch in securing their 28th straight win. Diggins finished with 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Diggins said it was a play that was called coming out of the time out after Julian Benson tied the game at 60.
“(Dave) Cresap gave us a great call. We were practicing it all week, and we knew we were going to use it when it mattered,” Diggins said. “In the huddle, he called it and he said if it doesn’t go in, to go get that rebound and that’s what I did. I want to make sure he can trust me, no matter what the situation is.”
It appeared that Perham was going to run away with it as they raced out of the gates with a 24-9 lead. However, Nathan Willett and the Green Wave whittled the lead down to seven at the half. Willett finished with 20 points and was one of four players in double digits for the Green Wave. He went on a 12-0 run of his own, which was during a 17-0 run that ended the first and started the second half.
“We came out nice and hard. We took advantage of their softer defense that they play and jumped out early. They gradually picked away at it and cut it down a bit, but Charlie got his second foul and we had to pull him,” Cresap said. “They got hungry like wolves and came at us pretty hard when they saw him come out. We weathered the storm, and they came out like gangbusters in the second half. I think we forgot how to guard for three minutes and they made some big shots. We got Charlie back in the flow and the monster Finn took over and wanted to get to the glass and they couldn’t stop him.”
Charlie Rasmussen finished with 16 points for Perham and grabbed nine rebounds. Grant McMartin added 13 points. McMartin and Carter Aakre gave Perham valuable minutes off the bench in the contest.
Cresap said those two provided a spark for the Yellowjackets on their way to the victory. Aakre added five points and hit a crucial 3-pointer in the second half.
“Overall, we had big plays. Grant McMartin had great plays in the first half and Aakre defended really well,” Cresap said. “This is a team effort and this was the game you must have a team effort and we did tonight. We advance, and we get to practice tomorrow, which is great.”
Cresap said it was great to see the Yellowjackets come up with key plays down the stretch. He said they hadn't really tested that late into a game during the season and they were able to come through down the stretch.
“I wasn’t really worried as soon as Finn got going a bit more and got momentum on the block, we were doing better things,” Cresap said. “They tested my patience a bit, and they tested our players a bit. But when you face that adversity and be down for the first time, really that late all year-long and to come out with a win, shows a lot of character out of our guys.”
Perham had all the momentum early in the first half, grabbing a commanding 24-9 lead and led by as many as 17 points at three different points in the first half. However, East Grand Forks turned the momentum on a drive by Votava. Campos followed with a 3-pointer, which was answered by a Diggins’ hoop, however, Willett closed with seven straight points to end the first half.
“We started off very well and then we slowed down a bit,” Diggins said. “We started to coast, and we can’t have that. We faced adversity very well tonight.”
East Grand Forks continued the run in the second half with 10 straight points, grabbing a 38-35 lead. The teams exchanged the lead 10 times in the second half.
With nine minutes to go, Diggins hit a fall-away jumper as he was being fouled. He sank the free throw to give Perham the 49-47 lead. However, Votava calmly answered with a 3-pointer to give the lead back to EGF for the ninth lead change of the half. Rasmussen answered right back with a basket in the lane to make it 51-50.
Perham maintained a slim edge, but Benson turned a Perham turnover into a layup at the hoop, evening the game at 60.
Diggins’ heroics followed, helping Perham grab the lead at 62-60 with his put back. EGF attempted a 3-pointer but it was no good and Rasmussen was there for one of his nine defensive rebounds. He was put to the line and hit one of two. Another missed shot and another Perham board, put Diggins at the line. He sank both and Perham lead 65-60. Tanner Campos sank a corner 3-pointer, giving EGF some hope with 10.9 seconds left. However, Perham kept the ball away from EGF and made it tough to foul. The Green Wave eventually fouled Elijah Morris, who hit one of two at the line, before a last second shot fell short for EGF.
“We know they can score and coming into the game, our scouting report was to neutralize their scorers and play our game,” Diggins said. “Right away we started that and then we got a little lackadaisical on defense but we finished the game and we won, which is all that matters.”
East Grand Forks has its season come to an end with a record of 26-3. Perham improved to 28-0 and will now play Fergus Falls in the Section 8AA Championship game on March 13 at Concordia’s Memorial Auditorium at 7 p.m.
PER 35 31--66
EGF 28 35--63
PER- Carter Aakre 5, Charlie Rasmussen 16, Finn Diggins 26, Grant McMartin 13, Gabe Thompson 2, Elijah Morris 4
3-pointers: Aakre, Diggins 2, McMartin. Free Throws: 14-18. Team Fouls: 9. Fouled Out: None
EGF-Nathan Willett 20, Sam Votava 15, Tanner Campos 11, Julian Benson 14, Ayden Stainbrook 3
3-pointers: Willett 3, Votava, Campos 3, Stainbrook. Free Throws: 3-5. Team Fouls: 15. Fouled Out: Votava