MINNEAPOLIS - The Perham Yellowjackets struggled to overcome Minneapolis North’s speed and pace falling behind 18-2 in the opening minutes which led to a 62-46 loss in Friday night’s Minnesota Class 2A state boys basketball tournament semifinal game at the Target Center.
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.
“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 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.”
Perham cut North’s lead 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 2A. They were defeated by Minnehaha Academy during their second game of the season.
The Polars improved to 23-9 and will get its rematch with Minnehaha Academy for the Class 2A Championship at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Halftime: MN 31, P 15
P: Beachy 11,Rasmussen 4, Jeziorski 15, Diggins 14, Cresap 2.
MN: Brown 7, Campbell 10, El-Amin 13, Wilson 11, Townley Jr. 12, Brown III 9.