Less than one minute remained in Saturday’s championship game when Geno Crandall was summoned for his grand exit.
Crandall, DeLaSalle’s senior point guard, held both arms aloft, extending three fingers on each hand. The body language was unmistakable. DeLaSalle captured a third consecutive Class 3A state title with a 60-40 victory over Austin.
“That was joy,” Crandall said. “When you see the time get lower and the score get farther apart, reality starts to set in. Once we left the game it all erupted and that was the first thing I thought of — we got three of them.”
Crandall’s joy once again brought Austin pain. The Islanders defeated the Packers one year ago for the championship. Packers coach Kris Fadness singled out Crandall as a major factor in the Islanders’ success in the rematch.
“They are a better team this year than they were last year,” Fadness said. “Geno Crandall has improved tremendously.”
Crandall, a deft ballhandler and consummate floor leader, said of his senior year: “I didn’t want to leave anything undone or unsaid. I just wanted to leave it all on the court.”
On a mission from the opening seconds, Crandall started the game throwing an alley-oop pass for teammate Sacar Anim to dunk. Austin missed on its first possession and Crandall grabbed the rebound, created space with a crossover dribble, then drove the lane for a finger-roll layup.
He finished with just four points but added seven rebounds and seven assists. Moreover, he kept pressure on Austin’s zone defense by encouraging Islanders’ coach Dave Thorson to stay the course.
With Crandall directing teammates and moving himself into proper position, DeLaSalle turned a 14-14 tie into a 33-20 halftime lead. He finished the season averaging 11 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. For all Crandall’s athletic abilities, his mind made him even more valuable to Thorson.
“In some sense, he was our MVP this season,” Thorson said. “His ability to understand and intellectually analyze what’s happening is on a way different level. He could shoot the ball 10-15 more times per game but doesn’t because he understands that in playing his role it makes our team even that much more successful.”