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Posted On: 03/6/18 10:16 AM
For much of the season, it has appeared that Perham would run away and hide with the Section 8AA crown. They finished the regular season undefeated, however, it wasn’t without a few close calls along the way.
Barnesville, Breckenridge, and Hawley all came within a couple of possessions of spoiling the Yellowjackets perfect season, and you can believe that those three teams, along with a couple others, have their sights set on one more chance to ruin Perham’s dream season.
We’ll take a look at the contenders, teams that are in the hunt, and a dark horse in this section, as well as try and predict the winner in this Section 8AA preview.
Contenders: Perham, Breckenridge
Perham has had a magical season up to this point, finishing the regular season as the only undefeated team in the state. Their schedule hasn’t been a cake walk this season, they’ve challenged themselves and defeated a lot of solid clubs outside of their conference and section, including Breck, Anoka, Annandale, and Esko. Josh Jeziorski has developed into a very capable and potent scoring option to compliment Jenson Beachy, while senior Martin LaFond adds more scoring punch to create a very formidable trio. This is a deep, cohesive team that I believe controls their own destiny. They’ll open up as the #1 seed in the south on Thursday at home against the #8 seed from the south, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
The Breckenridge Cowboys enter the playoffs as the second hottest team in the section, winners of their last five games. They finished the regular season with a 21-5 record and a 9-3 mark in the section. Of those three losses, two came at the hands of Perham by a combined 12 points, the other was to the #1 seed in the North, Hawley, by 3 points. Junior Noah Christensen averaged 26.5 PPG in the two games against Perham this season, and senior Derek Dahlgren also hung 27 on Perham in their first meeting of the season. You better believe that they have their sights set on a third matchup with Perham, which would end up being in the section championship. Breckenridge opens up on Thursday as the #2 seed in the south at home against the south’s #7 seed Staples-Motley.
In the Hunt: Hawley, Roseau
Hawley enters the playoffs as the #1 seed in the north, finishing the regular season with a 13-11 overall record and a 7-5 record in the section. They will square off on Thursday at home against Thief River Falls, who wound up with the #8 seed in the north. As the brackets are set up, two wins would put them in the semifinal game with a possible rematch with Breckenridge. In their first matchup of the season, they won by 3 points, however, in their second tilt in late January, the Cowboys dismantled the Nuggets by 45 points. Which result was more indicative of this Nuggets team? Juniors Noah Glad and Jayden Carlisle hope that the stars align for a semifinal rubber-match on March 12th.
The Roseau Rams finished the regular season with a 17-9 record overall and a 5-4 section record but wound up with the #2 seed in the north behind Hawley. They have a very balanced attack led by a pair of juniors, Jack Hirst and Eric Hoffer, and two seniors, Nels Braaten and Nate Corbit. Two wins would set up a potential semifinal matchup with Perham, the two teams did not meet during the regular season. The Rams open up the playoffs at home Thursday against rival Warroad, who is the #7 seed in the north.
There is a pair of other teams that could potentially make a run, but their potential second-round matchups will make it difficult to go deep in this year’s playoffs.
East Grand Forks earned the #4 seed in the north after a 15-11 regular season, however, they would be slated for a second-round matchup with Perham if they can get by Bagley on Thursday. Senior guard Cole Anderson is a player to watch for the Green Wave.
Crookston earned the #3 seed in the north following a 13-13 regular season. Seniors Carter Winand and Todd Boerger form a formidable tandem for the Pirates, but in their two matchups with the elite teams in the section this year, Perham and Breckenridge, they lost by 22 and 31 points, respectively. If the can defeat Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Thursday, Crookston would have a potential matchup with Breckenridge on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Dark Horse: Barnesville
The Trojans finished the regular season with a very pedestrian 9-15 record and a 5-8 section record, resulting in the #6 seed in the south. However, in their two meetings this year with the high seed in their half of the bracket, Perham, they lost both by a combined 11 points. A potential semifinal matchup with Perham could be interesting, as it appears Barnesville has developed a solid game plan against the Yellowjackets. They’ll need to get through the south #3 seed Osakis on Thursday. Senior guard Charle Aakre is a player to watch for Barnesville.
Every so often, you see a team that just appears to have “it”, and I believe that this Perham squad is one of those teams. They have a number of guys that can score, which makes them hard to game plan for, they have senior leadership and a number of emerging underclassmen, they play hard on both ends of the court, and they have a very solid coaching staff that has been here before.
It won’t be easy, but I believe that the Yellowjackets will make their way to Minneapolis in the next couple of weeks.
The quarterfinals will be on March 10th at Concordia-Moorhead, with the semifinals being held on March 12th and the championship game on March 15th, both are also at Concordia-Moorhead.