DAILY GLOBE TROJAN HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Yellowjackets stymie PanthersWORTHINGTON — Utilizing superior depth, excellent team defense and an impressive mastery of offensive “backdoor” cuts, Perham High School repeated as champions of the Daily Globe-Trojan Holiday Classic boys’ basketball tournament with a 77-58 victory over previously undefeated Ellsworth Wednesday night in the finals of the 13th annual four-team event.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Utilizing superior depth, excellent team defense and an impressive mastery of offensive “backdoor” cuts, Perham High School repeated as champions of the Daily Globe-Trojan Holiday Classic boys’ basketball tournament with a 77-58 victory over previously undefeated Ellsworth Wednesday night in the finals of the 13th annual four-team event.
Now sporting a perfect record of 6-0, the Yellowjackets played well from start to finish and likely had a happy bus ride home, traveling north over a distance of nearly 250 miles.
“What an outstanding effort by our kids,” beamed an elated Perham head coach Dave Cresap after addressing his squad following the victory. “I am so proud of every one of our players — that’s about the best performance we could have asked for. Our depth really showed and our team defense was outstanding.”
The Yellowjackets won last year’s classic with a closely-contested 65-60 victory over Worthington in the title game after defeating Adrian, 63-43, in the opening round.
This year, Perham’s wins were by bigger margins — cruising to an 84-18 victory over Adrian Tuesday night and then pulling away from the Panthers with stellar late-game free throw shooting in a contest which was much closer than the final 19-point spread indicates.
Ellsworth entered the game with a 7-0 record, including a thrilling 62-61 Tuesday night victory over Worthington in the semifinals, which advanced the Panthers to the title game in their first-ever appearance in the classic.
“Ellsworth has an outstanding team,” praised Cresap about the Panthers. “They are very well-coached and they play so well together. We knew we would have to play a great game to win this one.”
Both squads are ranked high in the latest state polls, released by Minnesota Basketball News.
Ellsworth is rated second in Class A, while Perham is ranked fifth in Class AA.
The contest certainly started out as a potential epic battle between the two perennial powerhouses, as there were seven lead changes and three tie scores in the game’s first six minutes and 43 seconds.
But, a layup by Perham’s Sam Stratton — a versatile 6-4 junior forward — with 11:17 to play in the first half gave the Yellowjackets a 13-11 lead and Ellsworth played from behind the rest of the night.
The Panthers had held early leads of 4-2, 5-4, 8-6 and 11-9.
But Ellsworth’s Dalton Huisman, who is averaging over 18 points per game, picked up his third foul with 12:20 showing on the clock and sat out the rest of the first half.
Huisman had scored seven of Ellsworth’s first eight points, getting the first two Panther baskets on layups — the second after a nifty steal — and also connecting on a beautiful 3-pointer from the top of the key, after clearing himself, which gave EHS an 8-6 edge at the 13:13 mark.
“We missed Dalton on the floor, no doubt about that,” Ellsworth head coach Tyler Morris said about Huisman’s 12-plus minutes on the bench. “He’s our point guard and our catalyst. Not only does Dalton score, he sets things up for us.”
Capitilizing on Huisman’s absence, the Yellowjackets surged to pair of six-point leads at 17-11 and 24-18, stringing together runs of 8-0 and 7-2.
Strong defensive rebounding and releasing on fastbreaks was part of the Yellowjacket success equation, as was effectively spreading the floor and converting layups off of backdoor cuts in the halfcourt offense.
“We really work on that a lot,” said Cresap about the effectiveness of the backdoors. “When teams put good defensive pressure on us and overplay on the perimeter, we’re good at cutting behind. Of course, you need a good pass to the cutter.”
Perham, which finished with 21 assists in the game, had its share of good passes — both in transition and, especially, in its halfcourt offense.
“I was impressed with Perham’s ability to execute,” praised Morris about the Yellowjackets offensive efficiency. “They have an athletic team, loaded with talented players. We knew the ‘backdoor’ was coming, but evidently didn’t get the ‘memo’ out to everyone —because it happened over and over.”
Yellowjacket junior guard Jordan Bruhn (6-2) was on the receiving end of several of those backdoor baskets, scoring 11 of his team-high 18 points in the first half.
Ellsworth’s Casey Schilling, who finished the night with a game-high 27 points, to along with 10 rebounds and four assists, scored in a variety of ways in the closing minutes of the first half — keeping the Yellowjackets from ever opening more than a seven-point spread.
A right-wing 3-pointer by 6-1 freshman guard Mitchell Leuthold with 38 seconds to play brought EHS to within four, 33-29.
Perham, however, closed out the half with a slashing cut down the lane by Bruhn (assist Nick Tobkin) and the Yellowjacks took a 35-29 advantage into intermission.
Schilling scored 12 of Ellsworth’s first half points.
Yellowjackets gradually stretch lead throughout second half, withstand 7-0 Ellsworth run
Perham scored first in the second half, going up by eight points, but Huisman swished a 3-pointer at the 17:10 mark, trimming the margin to five, 37-32.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, 17 seconds later, Huisman was whistled for his fourth foul and returned to the Ellsworth bench.
“That was an advantage for us, no doubt about it,” noted Cresap of Huisman’s absence on the floor. “He is a good all-around player who contributes a lot for Ellsworth.”
Shortly after Huisman sat down, the Yellowjackets struck with a pair of stunning plays, which opened up a nine-point lead for the Section 8AA school.
Bruhn scored on another well-executed backdoor cut (assist Stratton) and then after a block by Stratton, junior guard Jordan Cresap scooped up the loose ball and fired a perfect lead pass to Zach Gabbard (14 points) streaking in for an open layup which increased the lead to 41-32 with 15:31 to play.
The Panthers, however, continued to stay within striking range, as Nick Nolte drilled a 3-pointer, Schilling scored on an acrobatic drive through the lane and Nolte connected again from behind the arc.
With 11:22 remaining, the lead was down to seven at 47-40.
But, the Yellowjackets responded with a 3-pointer of their own as 6-2 sophomore guard Jordan Hein made the score 50-40.
“We have several kids who come in off the bench and can score,” declared Cresap. “Our depth has been a positive factor and it sure was again tonight.”
Schilling, who was 10-of-12 for the game (seven-of-eight in the second half) at the line, sank two free throws, trimming the gap to 50-42 with 10:42 to play.
Perham answered with a three-point play by Bruhn — off another backdoor cut (assist Stratton) and the Yellowjackets again held a double-figure lead, 53-42.
Stratton passed for a game-high eight assists and also contributed four steals, a block, five rebounds and nine timely points for Perham in a strong all-around performance.
Over the next three minutes, the Yellowjackets appeared to be taking complete command of the contest, extending the lead to 62-47 with 6:29 to play.
But, over the a span of one minute and 37 seconds, the Panthers scored seven unanswered points and sliced the margin to 62-54 with 4:52 left.
Travis Kvaale, a 6-2 junior forward who claimed 10 rebounds — five offensive and five defensive — for the Panthers, had made a nice pass down the lane to a slashing Schilling for a score before the 7-0 run started.
Kvaale’s basket (assist Schilling) started the Panther surge a minute-and-a-half later and then Schilling’s 3-point play (assist Huisman) dazzled the always-supportive Ellsworth crowd and trimmed the lead to 62-52 with just under five minutes to play.
Five seconds later, Bruhn fouled out and Schilling’s two free throws made it 62-54.
“We got some bounce in our step during that run,” praised Morris about the Panthers rally. “But we needed to play with that kind of energy level all game long — like we did last night (against Worthington). Overall, tonight’s game was disappointing because we did not play with the same effort or intensity that we did the night before.”
A pull-up jumper by Tobkin (12 points, two steals) put the Yellowjackets back up by 10, but Ellsworth trimmed it to eight again when a strong second-effort rebound basket by Kvaale made it 64-56 at the 4:06 mark.
Perham scored on another backdoor cut, going back up by 10 before Schilling scored again on a hard drive down the lane, bringing it back to eight at 66-58 with 2:58 left.
That was as close as the Panthers would get, however, as the Yellowjackets closed out the contest by a remarkable performance at the free throw stripe.
Mark Schumacher, a 6-6 junior center who was a terror on the defensive boards (11 rebounds, 10 defensive, three blocks, four assists, 14 points) sank seven straight free throws in the closing minutes as Perham pulled away and earned its repeat classic championship.
Huisman (11 points, three steals) fouled out with 3:20 to play in the second half.
“I was very impressed with how well Perham functioned together as a team, and I do mean as a team,” summed up Morris. “We play again (today), so we will need to find that bounce back in our step and be ready to play.”
The Panthers will tangle with Red Cloud, S.D. this afternoon (5 p.m.) at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. as part of the Mike Miller Classic.
Perham 35 42 — 77
Ellsworth 29 29 — 58
Perham (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Schumacher 0-3-8-14, Bruhn 1-7-1-18, Gabbard 1-3-5-14, Cresap 0-1-1-3, Tobkin 0-6-0-12, Wiskow 0-1-0-2, Hein 1-1-0-5, Stratton 0-3-3-9. Totals 3-25-18-77.
Ellsworth (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Leuthold 1-0-0-3, Nolte 2-0-0-6, Huisman 2-2-1-11, Ahlers 1-0-0-3, Schilling 1-7-10-27, Kramer 0-0-2-2, Kvaale 0-3-0-6. Total 7-12-13-58.