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Chris Murphy, Published March 12 2013

Perham takes down No. 2-ranked Hawley in sub-section finals

MOORHEAD – It wasn’t David versus Goliath talent-wise, but with 6-foot-2 Jordan Hein staring at Hawley’s 6-foot-4 Ben Ellefson, 6-foot-2 Jordan Harms, 6-foot-4 Devon Pekas and 6-foot-6 Jacob Crompton from the center position for Perham, it certainly was in the height department.

But David didn’t beat Goliath twice.

Perham topped No. 2-ranked Hawley 67-55 for the Yellowjackets’ third straight sub-section crown and a trip to the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys basketball championship game.

Height isn’t really a factor when there are no rebounds. Perham hit 14 shots on 17 attempts in the second half and never trailed after taking a 15-13 lead in the early going. Hawley lost two games all season, both of which came at the hands of the Yellowjackets.

“As you can see, their height is a lot taller than us, and they’re athletes,” said Hein, who finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. “We have the best coach in the state in our opinion. He drew up a game plan and we executed it. We believe with the coach we have and the players we have, we can knock anyone out in March.”

All season it’s been about the players Perham (22-7) didn’t have – losing its top six players from last season – and, for the first time in a long time, the Yellowjackets were underdogs.

With all new faces on the sub-section title game floor, Yellowjackets coach Dave Cresap decided to lighten the mood. He dressed in all camouflage in the locker room and told his team that he was their commander and he had led them into battle 28 times and won 21 times. Tuesday, the only battle going on was Hawley’s battle to score points against the Yellowjackets defense, as the Nuggets shot 16-for-60 from the field.

“I told them that we were going to war and we were going to Nugget Hill and we needed to take the Nuggets down from their hill, and boy did they laugh and they were more relaxed,” Cresap said. “They came ready to play.”

Hunter Salathe certainly came armed with offense, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points in the second half.

“We’re small, but that’s our strength,” Salathe said. “We feel like we can run teams up and down the court.”

Pekas hit two free throws for Hawley (25-2) to cut the lead to 56-51 with less than two minutes to go, but Perham closed the game on an 11-4 run to seal it.

“They completely took us out of our game,” Hawley coach Jed Carlson said.

The underdog role might be new for Perham, but after Tuesday, the Yellowjackets are battle-tested.

“None of us had played in a game like this before, after losing our top six players last year,” said Perham guard Josh Nordick, who finished with 19 points. “They are so big, so we had to show up physically and we did.”

P (22-7): Beachy 2 2-4 4, Glines 2 3-4 7, Nordick 7 5-6 19, Salathe 8 10-14 27, Hein 4 0-2 8. Totals 35 20-30 67.

H (25-2): Leaf 2 0-0 6, Harms 3 0-0 9, Ellefson 6 3-3 15, Pekas 4 7-7 15, Crompton 4 2-6 10. Totals 19 12-16 55.

Half: P 22, H 19. 3-point goals: Leaf 2, Harms 3, Salathe 1. Total fouls: P 20, H 21. Rebounds: P 25 (Hein 12), H 21 (Ellefson 15). Turnovers: P 15, H 12.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548