The first half between Columbia Heights and Mahtomedi in the Class 3A, Section 4 championship game on Thursday night was close until guard Deundra Roberson brought the Hylanders crowd to its feet with a breakaway dunk.
The momentum-changing score gave Columbia Heights a one-point lead it never gave up en route to a 70-62 victory that sealed a state championship berth.
"All of his dunks are electric, so it gave us big energy," Columbia Heights senior guard Quentin Hardrict said.
Columbia Heights (20-6) carried its momentum to the second half, opening with an aggressive full-court press. Mahtomedi (22-7) turned the ball over several times early and the Hylanders went on a 7-2 run.
Hardrict embodied Columbia Heights' frenetic pace. The senior guard regularly wove to the basket on offense, found teammates for baskets and pressured the Zephyrs guards with his defense. He finished with 16 points while Roberson had a team-high 19.
"Quentin is the little engine for us that makes things go well," Columbia Heights coach Willie Braziel said. "He does such an excellent job with the ball."
Every time the Hylanders looked poised to pull away, however, Mahtomedi ratcheted up the pressure and responded. Timmy Lindquist, Jack Shay and Karmoga Lero each scored 14 points to lead the Zephyrs.
Heading into the state tournament, Braziel is preparing his team to still play with high energy but be more under control.
"We're a quick team, but we can also be somewhat too fast," Braziel said. "It worked against us. We were making turnovers; we were making poor decisions with the ball."
In other Class 3A games:
Section 3: St. Thomas Academy finished on a 19-8 run to defeat St. Croix Lutheran 63-59 at Bloomington Jefferson. Sam Vascellaro led the Cadets with 23 points and Jack Thompson had 20. Adam Arroyo Jr. led the Crusaders with 14 points. Aaron Jenniges, Garett Maag and Jack Kuckhahn had 10 points for the Crusaders.
Section 5: Delano jumped out to an early 10-0 run en route to a 75-54 victory over top-seed Willmar at St. Cloud State University. Calvin Wishart led all scorers with 32 points, including 24 in the first half. Keegan O'Neil had 21 points and Derek Techam had 12. Noah Slagter led the Cardinals with 16 points and Drey Dirksen had 14.