The best thing that could have happened to DeLaSalle -- and the worst thing for the rest of the Class 3A field -- was the resounding slap the Islanders received in the days leading up to the tournament.
It wasn't a literal slap: But the Islanders were keenly aware that they had been seeded third despite winning the 2011 state championship and being ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press polls.
After their 65-45 dismantling of top-seeded Richfield in Saturday's Class 3A championship game, it was obvious that DeLaSalle was not only very good but also very focused.
"It was motivation for us throughout the tournament," said guard Allina Starr, the Islanders' floor general. "We've been there before, so we have confidence in ourselves. I knew we would win if we just played together like we have all season."
The Islanders made their intent clear in the opening minute when Starr sank back-to-back three-pointers for a 6-0 lead.
But Richfield (27-5), making its first state tournament appearance, showed why it earned the top seed, battling back with a tight zone defense and strong interior play from senior center Bryann Guyton to take its only lead of the game, 12-10.
Bright spots were few and far between for the Spartans after that, however. DeLaSalle went on an 11-2 run, capped by three-pointers from Starr and freshman Taylor Toney, and not long after Richfield's heart, junior guard Jessica January, was relegated to the bench with three fouls.
"We wanted to wear her out," DeLaSalle coach Faith Johnson Patterson said. "She's a track star and unbelievable athlete. She does so much for them. We didn't want her to have the energy she needed."
Having coached six previous state championship teams, Johnson Patterson has some experience in planning for the brass ring.
Her strategy worked as well as she hoped. January, confronting a new defensive face on a regular basis, made only three of 16 shots and finished with 12 points, 13 below her season average.
In the meantime, DeLaSalle (28-3), struggling with its shooting, leaned on Starr and Tyseanna Johnson for offense and forwards Mia Loyd and Mariah Adanene for interior grit.
Starr and Johnson, juniors who have started together for four years, combined for 40 points; Loyd and Adanene had 27 rebounds -- 12 offensive -- between them.
"We're blessed," Starr said. "Like our coach says, 'For every private struggle, there's a public success.' To have this team and coach and the cohesiveness we have, it doesn't matter what anyone else says."