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Bob Williams, East Ottertail Focus, Published January 26 2011

Perham victorious in return after Gabbard collapse

The combined nature of heavy and hopeful Perham hearts was bolstered by sincere empathy from the West Central Area team and fans during and after the game Tuesday evening.

Little sympathy was shown to the hosts on the floor, as the Yellowjackets improved to 12-0 after a 64-13 victory.

Even missing Zach Gabbard, the Perham defense picked up right where it left off, holding the fourth team this season to single digits at the half.

Perham led by thirty at the break, 37-7.

The game got off to a nervous start with both teams going scoreless the first two minutes.

The large Perham contingent in attendance, which outnumbered the collection of West Central fans, stood all the while awaiting the first bucket.

Mark Schumacher’s contested shot under the basket garnering a foul brought a roar from the Perham crowd.

Schumacher and Jordan Bruhn got the Yellowjackets on the board and the duo would lead an onslaught of points to come.

Bruhn led all scorers with 16 points, shooting four of six from the three-point line. Schumacher’s five-inch advantage on the tallest Knight allowed him to dominate inside.

Jordan Cresap filled the empty starting position left by Gabbard’s absence and the emotion of that role was evident on his face in warm-ups and in the opening minutes.

“There was a lot of emotion surrounding the game,” Head Coach Dave Cresap said. “I think all of the guys responded very well and handled themselves very well.”

The Yellowjackets warmed up in Zach Gabbard t-shirts. Schumacher carried Gabbard’s jersey into the game and it remained on the bench with the players for the duration. Schumacher also sported a headband dedicated to Zach. Behind the bared emotions on players’ faces was steeled determination.

“I think Schumacher, Bruhn, and (Cresap) were so focused to not let anything get in the way of victory. I was proud of the way (Cresap) responded in being put in the starting lineup in Zach's position.”

Having practiced minimally over the past week and dealing with the constant uncertainty of their teammate’s condition created a plausible situation for a tense start to the game.

“The pre-game locker room was very focused but nervous about the whole situation. We talked about the Marines not leaving any men behind, so we were going to put Zach on our back and carry him along for the ride the rest of the season,” Cresap said.

They took Gabbard, all the Perham fans and the West Central fans and players, put them all on their back and raced around the court untouched by the Knight’s defense and keeping the flow of the game in Yellowjacket style.

A Jordan Cresap three-pointer put Perham up 12-0. West Central was held scoreless for the first five minutes finally scoring at the 13-minute mark of the first half.

By the midway point of the opening 18 minutes, the game was well out of reach, 25-4.

Bruhn sunk a three-pointer to open the second half stretching the lead to 40-7 and while most teams would have cruised the rest of the way, Perham played with a purpose until wholesale substitutions made way for bench players who carried the same purpose and determination denying West Central any chance at scoring.

The 13 points allowed was a season-low for Perham. Perham held Frazee to 17 points and Adrian to 18.

“After the game, I sensed some relief in their bodies. They felt very good about the victory but that wasn't the most important thing. They want Zach to come back to them and be part of this team. They know the motto we are using, ‘one game and one day at a time.’”

Perham has back-to-back games this weekend traveling to Pelican Rapids Friday night and returning home, for the first time since Gabbard’s collapse, to play a Saturday matinee, at 4:15 p.m., at Prairie Wind Middle School.

The West Central Area staff sale of yellow ribbons during the game raised $513.89. All proceeds will be donated to the Zach Gabbard fund set up at United Community Bank.

Donation’s can be made at any UCB location (Perham, Frazee, Dean’s Country Foods in Perham) in the name of the Zach Gabbard Fund. They can also be sent to United Community Bank at 155 Second St. SW, Perham MN 56573.

For more information, call United Community Bank at 218-346-5700, or go to their