HOLIDAY CLASSIC BASKETBALL: Perham makes it back to Classic finals
WORTHINGTON - Effectively working its penetrating halfcourt offense and frequently double-teaming the ball with its pressuring defensive tactics, Perham worked its way back to the championship game of Worthington's 15th Annual Daily Globe-Trojan Holiday Classic high school boys' basketball tournament with a 68-60 victory over Mankato West in Thursday night's opening semifinal contest.
The Yellowjackets (5-3) ran the floor well several times in the second half and opened up a pair of nine-point leads on the five-time champion Scarlets, who won the Trojan Classic each year from 2004-2008.
"We had a streak of 10 straight wins here," said Mankato West head coach Tom Boone. "Then we took a three-year break from coming to this tournament and had that run snapped (tonight) by a very good Perham squad who defended our perimeter well and also did a fine job on our inside game."
The Scarlets, who were the Class AAA state runners-up in 2009, play in the Big Nine Conference and won their first four games this season before losing to league rival Rochester John Marshall and Southwest Conference powerhouse Marshall.
Perham claimed the Class AA state championship in 2011 - three months after repeating as the Trojan Classic champions in December of 2010.
The Yellowjackets have been tournament runners-up three times (2005, 2007 and 2011), being defeated by Ellsworth (71-57) in last year's title game.
Perham's victory Thursday advances the perennial Heart O' Lakes Conference power to its fourth consecutive Trojan Classic championship clash and a meeting with the host Worthington Trojans who defeated Sibley East (93-70) in Thursday's second semifinal.
Dave Cresap, Perham's veteran head coach, was well-pleased with his team's effort against West, citing the number of loose balls the Jackets pounced on in the second half.
"We really worked hard in the second half, getting nine of the 11 loose balls," exclaimed Cresap. "We had seven deflections after the break, too, so we were hustling and getting our hands on a lot of passes."
Tyler Glines, a 6-1 junior guard, topped a well-balanced Perham scoring attack with 18 points, netting nine in each half - most of them on hard drives to the hoop.
Eli Beachy, a quick-moving 5-9 junior guard, scored 15 points for the Yellowjackets, including a pair of timely 3-pointers and a 5-of-6 performance at the free throw line.
Hunter Salathe, a 6-2 junior forward, had several nifty assist passes and finished with 12 points, including Perham's first four baskets of the second half, getting assist passes from Josh Nordick, Beachy and Jordan Hein, respectively, on three of the scores.
"We came out with a good burst to start the second half," noted Cresap. "Hunter's really coming along as a player and he finished well on the receiving end of some good passes to help get us going."
Hein, a 6-2 senior forward who played quarterback for Perham's recent Class AAA state semifinalist squad and is headed to the University of Northern Iowa on a football scholarship, triggered the Yellowjackets with back-to-back defensive rebounds and long assist passes - the first to Salathe and the second to Nordick (nine points, three steals).
Those two plays by Hein (seven points, six assists, five rebounds) gave Perham a 40-33 advantage with 13:47 remaining.
Less than a minute later, Hein drilled a 3-pointer and Nordick (a 6-1 senior guard) connected from nearly the same spot and the Yellowjackets were leading by nine, 46-37.
After a basket by Mankato West's Alex Knutson (12 points) sliced the gap to seven, Beachy lifted the margin back to nine (48-39) with a sweet baseline drive.
The Scarlets, however, responded with a strong run of their own - fueled by 6-3 freshman Jake Dale and 6-6 senior Austin Majeskie (10 points, nine rebounds).
Sophomore guard Josh Athey's 3-pointer from the right corner, trimmed Perham's lead to 49-47 at the 8:10 mark, but the Yellowjackets quickly responded with a 3-pointer by junior guard Nick Bahls and their lead was five, 52-47.
Two baskets by Dale (spin move in the lane for one, assist from Carter Burmeister for the second) brought the Scarlets to within a point (52-51) with 6:31 to play.
But 16 seconds later, Hein found Glines with a backdoor bounce pass for a key Perham basket.
The Yellowjackets extended the lead to seven as a Beachy layup (assist Salathe) and another drive by Glines made the score 58-51.
A drive by Majeskie trimmed the lead to five and a nifty inside move by the versatile Dale - game highs of 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists - sliced the lead to three with just over three minutes left.
Dale, who scored 27 points in the Scarlets' 80-77 win over Winona earlier this month, had his third 20-point game of the season and impressed Cresap with his passing.
"We doubled him, but he could go over either shoulder, so he was tough to stop," the Perham coach said. "When we did keep him from scoring, he zipped a pass to someone else for an easy basket. He's a good player."
Perham countered with another drive by Glines and a left wing 3-pointer by Beachy - off a handoff from Hein - to stake itself to a 63-57 advantage with 2:22 on the clock.
Late-game blocks by both Glines and Nordick helped the Yellowjackets preserve their lead and advance them to the finals.
Mankato West (4-3) plays Sibley East (3-3) at 5 p.m. today for the third-place game with the Perham vs. Worthington (4-2) championship clash following.
Mankato West 60
Perham (5-3): Beachy 4 5-6 15, Salathe 6 0-2 12, Glines 7 4-7 18, Bahls 2 0-0 5, Hein 3 0-1 7, Nordick 2 3-4 9, Muer 1 0-1 2. Totals 25 12-21 68
Mankato West (4-3): J. Dale 7 6-11 20, Athey 2 1-2 6, Burmeister 2 0-0 4, Knutson 5 1-1 12, Majeskie 3 4-4 10, Schlichte 1 0-0 2, D. Dale 1 0-0 2, Myers 2 0-2 4. Totals 23 12-20 60
3-point goals: Perham 6 (Beachy 2, Nordick 2, Bahls, Hein); Mankato West 2 (Athey, Knutson) Halftime score: Perham 30, Mankato West 26