March is tournament time. I may be the only person in the country who did not fill out a single NCAA Basketball bracket, but millions are watching it intently. On the high school level, the state tournaments are winding down. Next week, when the Minnesota High School Boys Basketball tournament gets started, Perham will be making its first appearance in school history. On Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. at Williams Arena, the Yellowjackets will play the Section 7 AA champions (Virginia and Moose Lake-Willow River play Saturday night at 7:00 at the University of Minnesota-Duluth).
It has been an amazing season for the Perham Yellowjackets. They are now 28-1. Their lone loss came in overtime to perennial power Pelican Rapids. In the sub-section semi-final game last Saturday, they played without one of their key players Jordan Bruhn, who was out sick. The team needed overtime to finish a 65-59 win over Hawley. On Tuesday, the sixth-ranked Jackets beat #4 ranked Pequot Lakes 64-48 to win its first Sub-Section title.
On Friday night, Thief River Falls took a 2-0 lead over Perham. That would be the Prowlers only lead of the entire game. At one point, the Yellowjackets held a 14 point lead, but Thief River Falls cut the lead as low as three points in the second half. The Jackets allowed the game to stay tight because of missed free throws. At one point, they were 4-16 from the line. However, they hit some big free throws down the stretch and held on for the 55-44 win in the Section 8AA final.
It has been an amazing season for the Yellowjackets, and it has been a trying season for the team as well.
In late January, I wrote a Your Voices article called One Clap for Zach. In it, I wrote about a 17 year old Perham boys basketball player named Zach Gabbard who had a cardiac arrest on the court in a game against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on January 20.
Since that time, he has gone through a lot. Here is a brief timeline of highlights since then (according to his Caring Bridge site):
Since being at Bethesda, he has continued to make strides in his physical and speech therapy. On Tuesday night, when Perham had taken a large lead over Pequot Lakes with two minutes to go, Zach uttered, "Yes! We're playing at Concordia on Friday I want to go to the game in a wheelchair!"
Of course, he was not able to go to the game last night in Moorhead. However, with the help of Arvig Communications (ACS), he and his mom were able to watch Friday night's game on a special internet feed. I imagine he was very excited for his teammates, friend and coach. Seeing the black and gold One Clap for Zach t-shirts had to feel good. Seeing his team make it to the state tournament. I can only imagine what was going through his mind.
On Tuesday, his teammates will all come to see him. Will Zach Gabbard be allowed to go to Williams Arena on Wednesday night to watch them make their state tournament appearance? I really, really hope so!
Congrats to Coach Cresap
I played basketball at Perham during the 1991/92 and 1992/93 seasons (Yes, I'm old!), and in those two seasons, we went a combined 3-39. Things did not get better for a couple of years. Not until Coach Dave Cresap came to Perham and changed the basketball mentality of the town.
To gain a perspective of what Coach Cresap has done at Perham, I asked one of his former players to help. Cory Hepola played for Perham in the mid-and-late '90s. He is now a sports anchor for WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, where he is asked to cover many teams including the Twins' AAA Affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, the Buffalo Bills and Syracuse sports. He wanted to share his thoughts on the Perham coach:
Coach Cresap is assisted by Brian Schwantz and Brent Hanson.
When he suffered his cardiac arrest in late January, Gabbard had been Perham's leading scorer in three of the team's four previous games. He was arguably their best player. This run to the state tournament (and that 28-1 record) is a testiment to the rest of the 16 and 17 year olds on the Perham roster. 6-7 Mark Schumacher and guard Jordan Bruhn lead the way while they get major contributions from Sam Stratton, Nick Tobkin and Jordan Cresap. This is a true team, brought together in one purpose.
The story of the 2010/11 Perham Yellowjackets basketball team has been a very interesting one, to say the least. They have experienced the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs. With their win on Friday night, the story continues for one more week. If you are a fan of the high school tournament, and want a team to cheer for next week, this might be your choice.
The story of Zach Gabbard this year has certainly seen the lowest of lows, but a lot of really hard work on his part and encouragement from his family, friends, the basketball community and many people that do not even know him, that story continues. Thankfully, it is a story that will have many chapters to come.