On paper, the Class 4A, Section 5 boys' basketball final looked like a mismatch: Top-seeded Park Center — long and athletic and talented — against Osseo, the No. 3 seed with no player taller than 6-3.
But Osseo had been in big games before and knew there was more to winning basketball than simply physical skill. The Orioles showed as much, playing gritty defense and working tirelessly on offense to emerge with a 61-57 victory Friday at Rogers High School.
"We are really short," Osseo coach Tim Theisen said. "They might be 6-2, but they play like they're 6-6. Our guys never quit. We don't pass the eye test, but these guys play much bigger than what they are."
It was the third game between the Northwest Suburban Conference rivals, having split the first two. The last one, a 14-point Park Center victory, factored in Friday's result.
Osseo (23-6) kept finding openings behind the Park Center defense for easy baskets, a change from the last game.
"They were pressing us, so we did get easy looks at the basket," Theisen said. "The last time we played them, that didn't happen."
The Orioles defense made life miserable for the Pirates. Park Center 6-9 sophomore Dain Dainja was repeatedly moved off the low block as Osseo made Park Center (24-5) win from the outside.
"We wanted to take away the inside game first and let them shoot from the outside," Theisen said.
Richard Mulbah and Johnson Fallah scored 13 points apiece for Osseo and guard Zach Theisen added 12.
The victory was particularly sweet for Theisen, the coach's son, who missed Osseo's 2016 state tournament appearance because of a broken foot. He missed time late this season because of a knee injury.
"That was 10 games ago and I was thinking, 'Wrong time again,' " he said. "It's a little sore, but not right now, with all the adrenaline. This feels great."