Defense, 3-point shooting propels Perham past DGF, into state tournament
Perham earned a spot in next Tuesday’s Class 2A state boys basketball tournament quarterfinals to be played at Williams Arena or Target Center.
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — The only thing Perham junior Jacob Daniels was missing were the tears. Daniels played a gritty game on Friday, leading his team in scoring, with beads of sweat trickling down his forehead and a bloodied No. 13 jersey draped over his shoulder to prove it.
The 6-foot-2 junior forward Daniels scored 16 points for the Yellowjackets, who captured the Section 8AA boys basketball championship with a 54-40 win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.
“It feels amazing. We’ve worked so hard for this as a team,” Daniels said. “To come down here and prove it tonight, it’s something special.”
Perham earned a spot in next Tuesday’s Class 2A state boys basketball tournament quarterfinals to be played at Williams Arena or Target Center. The Yellowjackets last reached the state tournament in 2019.
“I’m feeling ecstatic right now. It won’t sink in for a while,” Perham head coach David Cresap said. “This is a special one.”
Third-seeded Perham (18-10) used a balanced offensive attack and strong defense to take down top-seeded DGF, which ended its season at 22-6. The teams split the regular season meetings, each winning on their own court. Perham took the first, 58-54, in overtime, on Jan. 13, while the Rebels won the second 65-55 on Feb. 19.
“This group came a long ways from the beginning of the year,” Cresap said. “To reach a section championship game and play like this and win it, it’s really special.”
Friday’s contest at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse in Detroit Lakes marked the seventh consecutive season that the Yellowjackets reached the section title game. Perham lost last year’s championship 45-35 to Fergus Falls, the team it was also slated to face in 2020 before the title game was canceled in the early stages of the pandemic.
The Yellowjackets were able to control DGF’s 6-foot-6 junior standout Owen Leach, an NCAA Division I prospect, down the stretch. Cresap said his team’s game plan was focused around limiting the junior guard.
“When we played him at the end of the year, he lit us up,” Cresap said on Leach. “We were gonna make Leach work for every shot he had, and we did that. Micah Thompson did a great job keeping him in front and then our other helpers were so good. We did so many good things defensively, and that’s what we needed to beat them.”
Still, Leach managed to score 27 points for the Rebels, who struggled to get much of anything going offensively early against a tenacious Yellowjackets defense. Perham took an early 7-5 lead on buckets from Micah Thompson and Soren Anderson, but Leach quickly took matters into his own hands.
The 6-foot-6 standout needed less than eight minutes of game time to reach double digits in scoring. Leach rattled off 10 straight points to give DGF a 15-7 lead with 7:15 minutes remaining in the opening half. Leach, who scored all of DGF’s points to that point, hit a 2-point shot from the corner while falling down to cap his run.
But just like that, the Yellowjackets flipped the switch. Perham got hot from beyond the arc, erased the eight-point deficit and grabbed a five-point lead at 22-17 with less than three minutes left in the frame. The Yellowjackets took back the lead at 19-17 on an Alex Ohm 3-pointer from the corner.
“Our shooting improved. We had the same shots early in the game,” Cresap said. “We missed seven 3s, and then we started making the 3s and got some momentum going and confidence going. Our defense was outstanding the whole night.”
Three Yellowjackets scored in double figures. Following Daniels’ team-high 16, Thompson finished with 15 points and Anderson with 11.
The teams went into halftime tied at 22-22 after the Rebels closed out the first frame with a Logan Bitker basket and Leach triple. Bitker had 10 points for DGF.
DGF and Perham traded baskets to start the second half. Tied at 27-all, the Yellowjackets pulled away on a 8-0 scoring run that spanned four minutes. Daniels opened the spurt with a trey, while Thompson capped it with five straight points. The Yellowjackets used the run to grab an eight-point lead at 35-27 and never looked back.
Perham’s defense limited DGF to just five points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
But the Rebels, who were kept off the board for more than four minutes, got back in the game with a 10-4 run on buckets from three different players. DGF got within two points at 39-37 with just under five minutes remaining, but the Rebels would only get one more field goal the rest of the way.
The Yellowjackets were able to slow Leach down in the second half with double coverage, holding him to half of his first-half output. Perham sealed the game from the foul line, scoring its final eight points from the charity stripe.