Perham's Mark Schumacher (00) went up for a shot. Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Perham has been riding an emotional roller coaster since the end of January.
It reached the peak Wednesday night as teammate Zach Gabbard sat in a wheelchair behind the Yellowjackets’ bench during a 57-40 victory over Virginia in the Class 2A boys’ basketball state tournament quarterfinals at Williams Arena.
“This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with,” Perham coach Dave Cresap said. “It’s been a very emotional time.”
Gabbard, a junior forward, collapsed during a Yellowjackets game with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Jan. 20 in front of the Perham bench. First responders attended to Gabbard with a defibrillator. He has since had three open heart surgeries, and is undergoing therapy (physical, occupational and speech) in the Twin Cities.
“We didn’t know for four days if he was even going to live,” Cresap said. “Having him here tonight even brought tears to my eyes.”
Cresap knew Gabbard would be in attendance but didn’t let his players in on the secret.
“We thought we were going to watch a five- to 10-minute video conference with him [before the game],” Perham junior guard Jordan Cresap said. “When he came in the locker room behind us, it was unbelievable.”
The energy Gabbard brought to the locker room carried on to the floor. The Yellowjackets came out buzzing from the opening tip, quickly bringing a smile to Gabbard’s face.
“His energy definitely gave us a boost,” said Jordan Cresap, who finished with a game-high 19 points.
Perham (29-1) built a 12-point lead seven minutes in. The Yellowjackets stretched the margin over Virginia (26-5) to 24 points, 38-14, at halftime and were on their way to the semifinals.