Posted On: 02/9/18 11:18 AM
The Perham Yellowjackets have rattled off 19 wins in a row this season, having beaten the likes of Annandale, Anoka, Breck, Breckenridge (twice), and Esko. At this point in the season, they are definitely the favorite in Section 8AA, but we all know that anything can happen come playoff time.
Who are some of the teams that will be mid-ranked seeds that could pull off an upset? Who are some of the players to watch? In this week’s edition of Notes from the North, we’ll handicap the race in what is traditionally one of northern Minnesota’s most competitive sections, Section 8AA.
Perham (19-0) – Much has been written and spoken about the Yellowjackets this season. They have a deep, balanced team, with senior leadership and emerging juniors, as well as a top-notch coach in Dave Cresap. Their schedule has tested them this season, and they have proven that they are deserving of a top five spot in the NHR rankings for Class AA. Juniors Jenson Beachy (16.9 PPG) and Josh Jeziorski (14.1 PPG), along with senior Martin LaFond (14.3 PPG) form one of the best backcourt/wing trios that you will find in Class AA.
Breckenridge (16-4) – If the season ended today, Breckenridge would be the #2 seed in the South behind Perham, and would have to get through the North #1 seed if they want a third matchup of the season against Perham on March 15th at Concordia College for a ticket to the State Tournament. Currently, Hawley holds the #1 seed in the North, and Breckenridge has split the season series with them. In the first meeting this season, Hawley was victorious at home by three points, however, in their second meeting this year, Breckenridge came away with a resounding 85-40 win at home. Breckenridge has lost their last two games, by 7 at Perham and by 16 at home against Pelican Rapids, but prior to that they had rattled off 15 wins in a row. Their dynamic duo of senior Derek Dahlgren and junior Noah Christensen are both capable of hanging 30+ points on a team any given night, but if they are both on together, this team is downright dangerous.
In the Mix
At the moment, the next four teams would all be a top 3 seed in either the North or South if the season ended today. They would all need a fortuitous bounce of the ball to have a shot at unseating Perham, but you never know what will happen when the calendar turns to March.
Hawley (10-6) – Their signature win this season was beating Breckenridge, but that occurred in early December. They played Perham tough in January, losing by 11 at Perham, and they will get a chance next week to see how they stack up a month later as they will square off against Perham again at home on February 13th. Junior guard Jayden Carlisle and junior forward Noah Glad will be the keys to their success down the stretch.
Roseau (13-5) – The Rams have won their last three games leading up to a section matchup tonight at home against East Grand Forks. This is a game with huge section seeding implications as the two teams are jockeying for a #2 or #3 seed, with the #1 seed in the North not out of the question. They have a very balanced attack, with seniors Nels Braaten and Nate Corbit, and juniors Jack Hirst and Eric Hoffer all averaging around 10 PPG.
East Grand Forks (11-6) – As was mentioned above, they have a big section matchup tonight, but they also have games against section opponents in Park Rapids, Crookston, Barnesville, Hawley, and Bagley ahead of them on the schedule. The next few weeks could propel the Green Wave into a top seed in the North if they handle business. Like Roseau, they have a number of players who can contribute, however, the contributions have been coming from a few young players. Sophomores Julian Benson and Nathan Willet, and freshman Sam Votava team up with senior Cole Anderson to provide the majority of the scoring for East Grand Forks.
Park Rapids (11-8) – The Panthers have been one of the surprise teams in the section this season, currently sporting a 6-2 record against section opponents, which puts them in the #3 spot in the South. They’ve won two of their last three, with one of the wins being an impressive 67-56 victory at home against a tough Pequot Lakes squad. Doing the heavy lifting for the Panthers this season has been a pair of junior guards, Gabe Bagstad and Tristin Persons.
Heading into the last few weeks of the regular season, it will be interesting to see how this section plays out. Who will come away with big victories to improve their seed? Who will falter down the stretch? Can anyone beat Perham? It will be a fun month of basketball to follow in Section 8AA.