That final step was a doozy, but Sauk Centre finally climbed it, holding off a late charge by Roseau to defeat the Rams 63-52 in the Class 2A championship game.
It's the first state title for the Mainstreeters, one that took seven previous state tournament appearances and three runner-up finishes to attain at Target Center.
"It's really difficult to get here and once you're here, it's 10 times tougher to win it," Sauk Centre coach Scott Bergman said. "In the times we finished second, I felt like we got beat by a better team. I think that this proves, in our class, that we're the best team."
Sauk Centre completed a perfect season (33-0). In 2017 Roseau finished unbeaten, defeating Sauk Centre in the final.
The Mainstreeters flipped that result Saturday, but they had to endure some tense moments to do so. Attacking the lane, either for inside baskets or kicking the ball out for three-pointers, Sauk Centre controlled play for most of the first half. The Mainstreeters led by 12 points, 33-21, at halftime and extended that lead to 21 points, 49-28, in the first six minutes of the second half.
Roseau was coming off an emotional comeback victory late Friday in the second Class 2A semifinal. That may have played a part in the Rams' inability to keep pace.
"We didn't come out with the energy we needed to compete with them for a whole game," Roseau coach Kelsey Didrikson said.
The Rams tried to make up for it in the game's final 11 minutes. Realizing the game was slipping away, they began pressuring the Sauk Centre ballhandlers. Turnovers ensued and Roseau, which had trailed in every game of the state tournament, began to turn those miscues into points. When Emma Waling made her third three-pointer of the second half with 2:06 left, the Sauk Centre lead had dwindled to 55-52.
Sauk Centre stemmed the Roseau charge at the free throw line, converting eight of 11 free throws in the final two minutes, the final four by senior Maesyn Thiesen.
The Peschel sisters — Kelsey, a senior, and Tori, a sophomore — paced Sauk Centre with 18 points apiece. Thiesen, a Miss Basketball finalist, added 17.