Four of the last five Section 8-2A championships have been won by either Crosby-Ironton or Perham.
Friday night, however, will be the first time in that span those teams will battle to decide who represents the section at state.
The two-time defending section champion Yellowjackets (22-7) were the No. 2 seed in the Southwestern Subsection, but upset top-seeded and 2A’s second-ranked Hawley 67-55 to advance to the section final at 6:30 p.m. at Concordia College in Moorhead for the third straight year.
Perham has won four straight, and eight of its last nine games.
“This team has really started to peak the last couple of weeks,” said Perham head coach Dave Cresap. “We’ve always played good defense, but the last couple of games they stepped it up a notch and that started against Pelican Rapids.
“We really started rebounding well even though we are undersized. That carried over against Hawley, where we really played well defensively.”
Perham’s man-to-man defense helped the Yellowjackets hold opponents to 48.6 points per game this season. That was the best in the Heart O’ Lakes Conference, in which Perham finished second behind Hawley.
The Yellowjackets averaged 65.8 points a game, which was third best in the conference.
The defensive game plan against C-I, which averages 64.5 points, will be to limit its top two scorers.
“They are a very well-coached team,” Cresap said. “Coach (Dave) Galovich has been around a long time and he’ll have them ready to play. That’s No. 1.
“No. 2, Caleb Baker and Daniel Hudrlik are great offensive players. They pose a lot of different problems for us. We need to limit Baker and take away any easy looks. We can’t let him get going because he’s too good of an outside shooter. Inside, stopping Hudrlik is almost an impossible feat, but we’re going to have to try.”
Hudrlik finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Rangers eliminated Warroad in the Northeastern Subsection championship Tuesday at Bemidji State. Baker, struggled from the field finishing with just six points, but added six assists.
C-I has won 16 straight games and is holding opponents to 48.3 points per game, which led the Mid-State Conference.
Perham graduated its seven top players from last season’s state tournament team. The new group of players has brought a more up-tempo style of play to the Yellowjackets’ offense.
“Even our post players, if they rebound, are able to take the ball on the dribble and get down the floor,” Cresap said. “We don’t have to rely on outlet passes. They can just get the ball down the court. That’s one of the biggest changes from last year and it’s allowed us more scoring chances because of that ability to transition into the fastbreak so well.”
Perham handled the Rangers 65-44 on Dec. 10, but it was just a one-point game at the half and was only C-I’s second game of the season.
“They are a good ballclub and have been there before, obviously, winning the last two times,” said Galovich. “The first time we played them we were down by one at the half and they turned it into a 21-point win.
“They like to push the ball up the floor, also. Transition basketball is what they like to play. They pride themselves on good, solid man-to-man defense.”