Girls basketball: Perham ends historic season with loss to New London-Spicer
The Perham girls basketball team was all smiles even after a loss in the consolation championship game against New London-Spicer
ST. PAUL – It was a bittersweet ending to a record-breaking season for the Perham girls basketball team, but the memories this team created throughout the year will forever live in the players' and coaches' hearts.
New London-Spicer got the best of the Yellowjackets in its 65-38 victory. Although the ending wasn’t how Perham intended, the girls had no reason to hang their heads. The Yellowjackets ended the 32-year state tournament drought and broke the record for wins in a season with 27.
The Yellowjackets held an 8-5 lead less than four minutes into the matchup. The Wildcats responded with a 23-0 run over the next six minutes of the game. Willow Thiel ended Perham’s misery with two free throws, but the Yellowjackets were down 28-10 with seven minutes left in the half. New London-Spicer tacked on nine more points and went into the locker room with a 37-15 lead.
Perham was unable to cut into its deficit and the Wildcats continued to let it fly and outscored the Yellowjackets 28-23 in the second half to become Class AA’s consolation champions.
“It was disappointing to play the worst half of the season in the first,” Perham head coach TJ Super said. “New London-Spicer shot the ball really well. I thought in the second half we didn’t give up and we played hard. It was a struggle today. We haven’t had many games like that. We haven’t played in many close games except for our losses. Today was all about our four seniors ending their careers and this team having one last game together.”
“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t play exactly how we wanted to,” senior Mya Morris said. “We are just glad to have been down here and got to play in the state tournament.”
Thiel and Morris led Perham with 12 points. Morris scored all 12 on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point land. Thiel added four rebounds and two assists to her stat line. Senior Olivia Pilgrim led the Yellowjackets in assists with three.
New London-Spicer’s Jaden Coahran finished with a game-high 18 points. Avery Rich had 14 points and Delaney Hanson finished with 12 points as the second and third-highest scorers on the Wildcats.
Senior Olivia Rosenthal thought the team left it all on the court in its last game.
“We battled to the end,” she said. “New London-Spicer is a really good team. It was fun to be able to play with my team one last time.”
After the game, Super and his team shared a moment but reminisced about what made a season one to remember.
“I talked about how proud I am of them,” he said. “I told them how everyone will remember all the basketball stuff but it’s the memories in the locker room, the bus, and at practice where the girls would be dancing, singing and goofing off. Those are the memories I am going to cherish forever.”
Morris was elated to have finally made an appearance at the state tournament after not being able to help her team the year before.
“It felt really good,” she said. “Last year I didn’t get to play, so getting down here was our ultimate goal. Just accomplishing it was really exciting and we are really about it.”
Rosenthal took a second to think about what separated this season from the rest.
“My favorite part was how much we laughed together,” she said. “We are a pretty rambunctious group. Everybody worked so incredibly hard and it was great to see our hard work pay off. We made it to the state tournament and broke the school record of wins in a season. It is a season that will never be forgotten.”
The whole state experience was a blast for the Yellowjackets. Pilgrim was happy to have been able to compete and take on the best of Minnesota state girls basketball.
“It was super fun to watch all these great teams,” she said “We got to do a lot of team bonding in the hotel. We really enjoyed ourselves and played some good basketball. I enjoyed it all.”
Senior Lily Aakre enjoyed every single moment as a member of the Perham girls basketball program but it was this year’s team that made her senior year so special.
“It was the most fun season I have ever had,” she said. “The girls were so fun and so supportive of each other. We enjoyed being with each other every single day. Practicing with these girls was the best.”
The team was one of a kind, and to Aakre, they will hold a special place in her heart.
“I am going to miss the whole team,” she said. “These are some of the most energetic, supportive and funny girls I have ever been around. I am going to miss them all.”
The four Yellowjacket seniors are going to be missed. Super had to hold back his tears when talking about the upperclassmen that mean the world to him and this squad.
“They are unbelievable in their own unique way,” he said. They had their different roles on the team. They are a great example of how you can impact a game by doing different things. With Mya, she was handling the ball all the time and made a bunch of threes. The other three seniors impacted the game just as much in their own different ways. We celebrate that in our program. If you are a part of something, it doesn't matter what your role is. You can be the MVP in it and be a part of something really special.”
There were a whole ton of historic milestones this Perham girls basketball team reached this season. It was the unbreakable bond that they created throughout the season that will never be shattered.
“I think the trust and love they have for each other,” Super said, “It’s a long season and you are battling each other in practice and it is easy to get on each other’s nerves. Everyone makes mistakes, struggles or has down days, but we are a very forgiving team and everyone loves each other. So you are willing to make mistakes and you feel safe. You feel like you are part of a family and that those mistakes won’t define you.”
The expectations are higher than ever for Perham girls basketball. Breaking the three-decade-long drought from the state tourney was the beginning of what Super hopes to be the norm for his Yellowjacket teams.
“As a coach, I have this fear that we won’t reach our expectations,” he said. “I have said this the last three seasons that we are graduating really good shooters and I don’t know how we are going to replace them. Then, every year, we keep getting more shooters. That is because our girls put the work in. I hope our younger girls get motivated by this and understand how we got here because it was a lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of people. It doesn’t just happen and it isn’t easy. Hopefully, this does become the expectation.”
PER 15 23- 38
NL-S 37 28- 65
PERHAM- Mya Morris: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Willow Thiel: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists; Cora Grismer: 3 points, 1 rebound; Olivia Rosenthal: 3 points, 3 rebounds; Morgan Smith: 3 points; Olivia Pilgrim: 3 points, 3 assists; Kennedy Pilgrim: 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists; Kaia Anderson: 2 assists; Cate Diggins: 2 rebounds; Greta Raser: 1 rebound
NEW LONDON-SPICER SCORING- Jaden Coahran 18, Avery Rich 14, Ava Carlson 9, Kaylee Thorson 2, Ellary Peterson 4, Dakota Rich 6, Delaney Hanson 12