Big Brock Bertram, the 7-foot centerpiece to Apple Valley’s basketball team, shined throughout the Eagles’ 64-61 state championship victory.

One of his roles was getting the better of the matchup inside with Champlin Park’s Theo John, a 6-8 sophomore with a long wingspan capable of changing games. Teammates in the summer, Bertram and John were all business Saturday.

“We had one goal, to win a state championship, and we had to fight for it,” Bertram said. “We really wanted to lock down on defense. It was a very physical game in the paint.”

Bertram scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while John contributed two points and six rebounds. Both got into foul trouble. Bertram fouled out but not before helping to get John in first-half foul trouble.

John, with long, chiseled arms, looks the part of a big man. He blocked six shots, soaring to send several great distances the other way. Bertram, meanwhile, plays a more quiet but efficient game. He averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds this season but remains a less-heralded player to outsiders.

“He averaged a double-double this year so you can’t doubt anything he does,” teammate Gary Trent Jr. said. “He got good boards and made big plays when it counted.”

Bertram left no doubt Saturday. He asserted himself inside, boxing out with authority, closing off weakside lanes for would-be Champlin Park rebounders and even knocking John down during one exchange.

“It was very physical,” Bertram said. “Theo is a great player. Theo has more athleticism; I have more strength, I would say.”

Bertram’s strength held up as the game turned tense down the stretch. Apple Valley never squandered its lead but Champlin Park hit just enough three-pointers to stay alive. When the Rebels were forced to foul Apple Valley ballhandlers, Bertram waited along at the far end, pumping his fist each time a free throw went down.

He said he was “just praying to God the free throws go in and we can win a state championship.”

Though he fouled out of the game, Bertram said winning this state championship “feels a lot better than the first one, I’d have to say.”