(Story and photo gallery updated!)
Inspired by a surprise visit by teammate Zach Gabbard, the
Yellowjacket boys basketball team stormed out of the gate and never looked
back, beating Virginia 57-40 in the Class AA State Quarterfinal game at
Williams Arena Wednesday night.
Gabbard, making his first trip out of the hospital since his
Jan. 20 accident, surprised his teammates in the locker room prior to
“This is really fun,” Gabbard said before the game. “I can’t wait to see the crowd.”
“We were already as motivated as a team can be,” senior Nick
Tobkin said. “But after we saw
Zach, that put us over the top.”
“We were so surprised to see him,” Jordan Bruhn added. “You can’t have much more motivation
than that. There’s no way we were
going to lose with Gabby in the house.”
The Jackets used the inspiration of Gabbard sitting
courtside to break open up a one-point game with an 11-0 run to take an 18-6
Nick Tobkin and Jordan Cresap combined for six 3-pointers in
the first half to help the Jackets to a 38-14 lead. But it was the defensive effort that got Perham out to such
a big lead.
“I think we exceeded playing hard,” Jordan Cresap said. “We were so jacked to see Zach, it
helped us pick up every part of our game.”
“Our defense carries over to our offense,” Tobkin said. “When we aren’t shooting good, we know
our defense can take over the game.
We get some steals and create some offense with fast breaks and good
open looks in transition.”
The Jackets struggled in the early parts of the second half
until Jordan Cresap snapped a long scoring drought with his fifth 3-pointer,
giving Perham a 47-26 lead with 7:40 to play. But as Tobkin said, even when the offense is struggling, the
defense can take over, and it did.
“We played outstanding team defense,” head coach Dave Cresap
said. “We hit some big shots when
we had the chances, but our defense was the difference.”
Virginia had been averaging 69.3 points per game this
season, 11th in Class AA, but Perham’s No. 2 ranked defense held
them to a season-low 40 points Wednesday night. The Jackets came into the game averaging just 39.6 points
allowed per game.
While Perham didn’t quite reach their average of 65 points,
they did score nine more than Virginia had been allowing this season (48.3),
which was 13th in Class AA
Even after the big win, which will extend the Jackets season
at least two more games, all anyone could talk about was Zach.
“I’ve had dreams about that moment (seeing Zach in the
locker room), Mark Schumacher said.
“It was kinda surreal. I’m
still not sure it even happened.
But I think it actually relaxed us a little. We couldn’t play tight with Gabby here. We didn’t want to go home.”
Cresap led all scorers with 19 points. Sam Stratton and Tobkin each finished
with 13. Bruhn added six points to
go with team highs in rebounds (6) and assists (7).
“We came here to play three games,” Bruhn said. “We still have two more.”
“We truly believe that if we play our best basketball, we
can play with anyone in the State,” Dave Cresap said.
Perham will play in the State semifinals at Target Center on
Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m. against W-E-M.
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (29-2) advanced with a 61-58
win over Zimmermann Wednesday night.
The Bucs are ranked No. 7 in the Class AA polls, and No. 3 in the
Minnesota-Scores.net QRF ranking.
They advanced to State by beating a team that Perham may be familiar
with, Maple River.