Nervous Minneapolis Washburn bench players frantically tapped the tops of their sneakers on the Target Center court during a double-digit second-half run by St. Paul Johnson on Thursday.
But by the end, the bright smile on Joseph Doby's face as the game's final free throws swished through the net told the true story.
"So happy we were able to pull away at the end," he said. "I think it was the first time I've ever smiled like that."
He had reason.
The senior forward paced the Millers to a tight 75-66 Class 3A semifinal victory over St. Paul Johnson with 21 points and nine rebounds. After a missed free throw, his off-the-glass putback with just under five minutes to play gave top-seeded Washburn (29-2) the lead for good.
"We weren't going to lose, we weren't going to go home," said Doby, one of three Millers in double digits and nine who scored. "We want that championship."
Securing a spot in Saturday's championship game was no cinch, though it appeared it was headed that way early. The Millers led by as many as 15 points late in the first half and took a nine-point lead into halftime.
But the Governors (21-9) entered the second half re-energized. They scored the first five points and used an 11-0 run to take a one-point lead with 6:30 to play.
"It was going to be a dogfight to get this one," Washburn coach Reggie Perkins said.
The Millers outrebounded the Governors 44-26 and limited them to 16 second-chance points.
"That was our focus," Perkins said. "And it worked."
Marcus Marshall put on a show for the Governors. The senior guard scored St. Paul Johnson's first 11 points en route to a game-high 31 before fouling out in the game's final minute.
DeLaSalle 67, Grand Rapids 44
Limited to four points at halftime, Reid Travis spent the down time in the DeLaSalle locker room reliving what he called a "soft" performance.
"When you think about it, that could have been it for our season," the sophomore big man said of his team, which led by six over Grand Rapids (25-6) at the time. "I didn't want it to be that way."
So he put himself in control. The 6-6 Travis, one of what coach Dave Thorson called his team's "fake post players," scored seven of the Islanders' 23 points during a lopsided run to open the second half. The Islanders cruised into the Class 3A championship game from there.
During the ride, Travis scored on back-to-back possessions for No. 2 DeLaSalle (25-6). The back end of it came on a one-handed slam dunk with Travis flying through the lane over Thunderhawks players.
"Just trying to bring some more intensity to the game," he said.
Luke Scott scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the first half and made three of the Islanders' seven three-pointers.
DeLaSalle, which carries a 13-game winning streak into Saturday's championship, forced 15 turnovers on the other end of the court.
"Our pressure was just too much," Thorson said. "That's what made the difference. Since Christmas, our defense has been really coming."