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Girls Basketball: Menahga takes control early to defeat Perham, advance to Section 8AA title game

Perimeter defense keys the Braves' 70-49 victory over Perham in the section semifinals.

JanieTormanenPelicanRapids.JPG
Janie Tormanen, shown driving to the basket against Pelican Rapids, posted a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds in Menahga's 70-49 victory over Perham in a Section 8AA semifinal game at Detroit Lakes on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

DETROIT LAKES – Entering the Section 8AA semifinal game at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 9, the strategy for the Menahga girls basketball team was to contest Perham’s 3-point shooters.

That strategy worked to perfection.

The No. 3-seeded Yellowjackets went 1 for 12 on 3-point tries in the first half while the No. 2 seed excelled from long range by making 8 of 17 attempts in the first half in taking control as the Braves coasted to a 70-49 victory.

“Our plan was to take away their 3-point shooters on the perimeter. They have a great post player inside surrounded by great 3-point shooters. We felt if we kept their outside shooters under control, we had a good chance to be in the game,” said Menahga head coach Cody Pulju. “I feel the key to the win was our half-court defense and everyone understanding their roles and defensive assignments. We rebounded and finished every possession really well.”

Menahga jumped out to a 13-2 lead at the 12:26 mark behind a layup and a jumper by Allie Pfeifer and 3-pointers by Lela Peterson, Amanda Lake and Maryn Pinoniemi. A jumper and two layups by Janie Tormanen and 3-pointers by Lake, Pinoniemi and Peterson pushed the advantage to 29-9 with 6:28 to go before the break. Layups by Erica Tormanen and Pfeifer and a pair of 3-pointers by Lake kept the Braves in front 39-20 at the half.

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“It was nice to come out of the gate firing and hitting shots. We moved the ball really well and played inside-out basketball and got some good looks in the first half and were able to knock them down,” said Pulju. “At halftime, we told the girls that their intensity and effort was really good in the first half, but we challenged them to bring even more in the second half and to keep finishing defensive possessions.”

The Braves did that by maintaining at least a 14-point advantage the rest of the way.

Janie Tormanen’s three-point play and Lake’s 3-pointer were followed by two jumpers and a basket off a rebound by Janie Tormanen as Menahga stayed in front 53-31 with 11:02 to play. Perham cut the gap to 53-39, but the Braves sealed the win on a pair of layups by Pinoniemi along with making 8 of 17 free throws as a team in the final 6:27.

Janie Tormanen recorded a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocked shots while Lake also scored 19 points, highlighted by making five 3-pointers. Pinoniemi chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds while Peterson joined Janie Tormanen with five assists. Pfeifer contributed eight rebounds, four steals and four assists for the Braves.

Center Willow Thiel also had a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds while Sydney Anderson scored 13 points for the Yellowjackets, who finished 4 for 19 on 3-pointers and concluded the season with a 21-8 record.

The Braves advance to play No. 1 Fergus Falls (23-5) for the Section 8AA championship. Fergus Falls eliminated No. 5 Crookston 65-50 in the other section semifinal. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. at Detroit Lakes on Friday, March 11.

“We couldn't be more thrilled to be playing in the section final in the very tough Section 8AA,” said Pulju, whose team will carry a 26-2 record into the section title game. “Fergus Falls is very tough, with Division I talent and lots of experience. We will have to play great defense and rebound well. We are excited for the opportunity.”

PERHAM: Rosenthal 2 0-0 4, Hillukka 1 0-0 3, Raser 0 0-0 0, K. Pilgrim 0 0-0 0, O. Pilgrim 2 0-2 4, Thiel 10 5-6 25, Anderson 5 0-0 13, Mickelson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 for 49 (FG), 5 for 8 (FT).

MENAHGA: M. Pinoniemi 4 2-4 12, Peterson 2 0-2 6, Lake 6 2-2 19, Pfeifer 3 3-5 9, J. Tormanen 7 5-9 19, Hendrickson 0 0-0 0, E. Tormanen 1 0-0 2, A. Pinoniemi 0 0-0 0, Aho 1 0-0 3, Koll 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 for 52 (FG), 12 for 22 (FT).

Halftime: Menahga 39, Perham 21. Three-pointers: Hillukka 1, Anderson 3, M. Pinoniemi 2, Peterson 2, Lake 5, Aho 1. Team fouls: Perham 17, Menahga 12. Rebounds: Menahga 35 (J. Tormanen 13, Pfeifer 8, M. Pinoniemi 7, Peterson 2, Lake 2, Hendrickson 2, A. Pinoniemi 1). Assists: Menahga 17 (Peterson 5, J. Tormanen 5, Pfeifer 5, M. Pinoniemi 1, Lake 1, Koll 1). Steals: Menahga 10 (Pfeifer 4, Peterson 2, M. Pinoniemi 1, Lake 1, J. Tormanen 1, Koll 1). Blocked shots: Menhaga 4 (J. Tormanen 3, Pfeifer 1). Turnovers: Perham 13, Menahga 8.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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