Perham's stingy defense ends Bagley's season
With two minutes to play in Friday's Section 8-2A high school boys basketball championship game at the Bemidji State University gym, Perham coach Dave Cresap tried to talk to his players during a timeout.
By that stage of the game, however, his voice had lost the fight against the constant cheering of the crowds.
But in the end his players had understood just enough of what Cresap had to say as the Yellowjackets successfully defended their section crown with a hard-fought 47-42 victory over Bagley.
"I had to yell the entire game. I had players this far (an arm's length) away who couldn't hear what I was saying," Cresap said. "What a crowd."
And what a game.
Bagley came into Friday's battle a distinct underdog. The Flyers (23-7) were undersized compared to the Yellowjackets and didn't have the tournament experience gained by winning a state championship the previous year.
But Bagley did not play like an underdog. The Flyers never backed down, battled for every rebound, every loose ball and every possession, and gave Perham a scare that the defending state champs will not forget.
"We played the No. 1 team in the state and we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game and go to state," said Bagley coach Chuck Anderson. "Over the past two years we went 50-10. Our guys put together a great career. They worked very hard and I'm proud of them."
Perham caught the Flyers on their heels early in the action and bolted to an 8-2 lead after four minutes. Bagley, however, eventually righted its ship and four minutes later the Flyers battled back to an 8-8 deadlock courtesy of Lucas Thompson's 10-footer, Lorezno Pemberton's inside bucket and Tyler George's steal and fast-break hoop.
The Flyers continued to control play during the next five minutes and Patrick Thompson's scoop shot from the paint provided a 16-12 advantage.
But Perham, behind seven points by Jordan Bruhn, outscored the Flyers 12-2 during the final four minutes of the stanza and owned a 24-18 lead at the break.
Bruhn was the offensive leader for the Yellowjackets. The senior scored 14 points in the opening 18 minutes and would finish with 23.
"Bagley was fighting for a trip to state just like we were and I expected Bagley to play this well," Bruhn said. "We're the defending state champions and all year long we have played with a target on our backs.
"Everybody plays their best against us and Bagley played a heck of a game," Bruhn continued. "They did everything well. They played with a lot of energy and we did too."
The Flyers spotted Perham the opening basket of the second stanza but Bagley answered with an 11-2 run to take the lead at 29-28 with 12:35 to play.
From the opening tip the officials were lenient with the whistles, allowing players on both sides to bang inside and generally ignoring the collisions in the paint.
Bagley, however, was whistled for offensive charging fouls, including one which took away a basket by George, on three of its four possessions after grabbing the 29-28 lead.
Those calls proved to be crucial as they denied Flyers' points and gave Perham the chance to regain control.
And the Yellowjackets took advantage of those opportunities as they transformed those charging calls into seven points.
"This was a great crew of officials and they called a great game. But those charging calls were big," Anderson said. "I didn't feel that (the defender's) feet were set on any of the three plays but that is what they called."
Late in the game Kris Skersick hit two free throws and Pemberton connected on a drive to close the gap to 38-35 but the Yellowjackets made just enough free throws in the two final minutes to preserve their 27th win in 29 starts.
"I thought our state tournament experience would help us tonight but that experience didn't show," Cresap said. "Give Bagley credit. They are a great team that wouldn't go away."
"Everybody is gunning for Perham and nobody wants to see us repeat," Bruhn said. "But we have a mission. We'll live in the moment (Friday night) but we'll get back to business at practice tomorrow."
Thompson 1, 0-0, 2; Bellefy 0, 3-4, 3; Knutson 1, 0-0, 2; George 4, 0-0, 8; Thompson 1, 0-0, 2; Skersick 2, 4-4, 8; Pemberton 7, 0-1, 15; Lundmark 1, 0-0, 2. Totals: 17, 7-9, 42.
Schumacher 1, 3-6, 5; Bruhn 9, 2-9, 23;
Cresap 1, 3-4, 6; Wiskow 2, 0-0, 4; Anderson 3, 2-6, 9. Totals: 16, 10-25, 47
3-point FG: Bagley 1 (Pemberton 1), Perham 5 (Bruhn 3, Cresap 1, Anderson 1)
Fouls: Bagley 23, Perham 11
Halftime: Perham 24, Blackduck 18