The Red Knights were able to thwart DeLaSalle's stifling play with a grinding defense of their own, while the Tigers were able to shut down St. Michael-Albertville's top two offensive stars.
Asked to look ahead to his team's Class 3A championship game against Benilde-St. Margaret's, Marshall girls' basketball coach Bruce Remme sounded like someone who has his work cut out for him.
"Their post presence is as good as any we've seen," he said of the Red Knights. "They're as quick as any team we've seen."
But the Tigers, who advanced to Saturday's title game with an unexpectedly lopsided 58-39 rout of St. Michael-Albertville, have something Benilde-St. Margaret's doesn't: They've been here before.
The Tigers advanced to the state semifinals last year, falling to runner-up Holy Angels, and have been itching to get back to state ever since. The Red Knights, meanwhile, earned a title-game berth in their first state tournament trip since 1977, displaying veteran-like poise as they dispatched DeLaSalle 45-34.
Benilde-St. Margaret's 45, DeLaSalle 34: Red Knights coach Bob Lyons knew all about DeLaSalle's smothering defense, having needed a big rally from his team to beat the Islanders 49-44 earlier in the season. He knew Thursday's semifinal game would be a grind-it-out affair, and that his team wouldn't have a chance if it didn't match the Islanders' defensive tenacity.
"I thought we did that," he said.
And how. One day after DeLaSalle reeled off 61 points in its quarterfinal victory over Willmar, the Red Knights won their 17th game in a row by locking down the Islanders, holding them to 11 first-half points and 21.4 percent shooting from the field.
Benilde beat DeLaSalle at its own game, limiting the Islanders to nine total field goals and outscoring them 20-4 in the paint. The Red Knights also forced 29 turnovers, although they gave up 27 themselves.
"They knocked down some shots early," Islanders coach Carol Thelen-Richter said. "We couldn't buy a basket, couldn't make a free throw."
Samantha Morgan led Benilde with 13 points, and Kachine Alexander -- the Knights' leading scorer who was hurt near the end of the first half -- contributed 10.
Marshall 58, St. Michael-Albertville 39: The Tigers followed their game plan to perfection, focusing the bulk of their attention on the Knights' Big Two, guard Marla Arns and forward Jodi Reinschmidt. After combining for 40 points a day earlier, the pair totaled 21.
"Reinschmidt does such a nice job of attacking the basket," Remme said, "but we did a good job of getting position on her and forced her to pull up a little further away from the basket than she would have liked."
Marshall held the Knights to five points during an eight-minute stretch spanning the first and second halves, and used the span to extend a 21-15 advantage to a commanding 40-20 lead.
Julia Schultz, a 5-9 senior, scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the first half, often on second-chance shots. Marshall grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the first half.
None of the Knights have state tournament experience, and Hamre, a first-year coach, figured that was a factor.
Schultz remembers the feeling well.
"It helped a lot to be here," she said. "Those of us who were here last year, I remember we were kind of nervous. Now we're used to the atmosphere of this place."