Two weeks after its epic victory over Minneapolis North in the Twin City Championship game, St. Paul Johnson showed a basketball savvy that fans rarely witness.
The Governors downed Hill-Murray 85-78 in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game Thursday at St. Paul Washington Tech High School, taking control in unexpected fashion.
After a frenetic and highly entertaining first half that ended with Johnson leading 42-40, the pace of the game in the second half slowed considerably.
Johnson is a team known for an attacking, up-tempo style of play. Slowing things down is generally the plan of attack used by its opponents.
But this time, it was the Governors who took advantage. Collapsing on Hill-Murray's star guard Marshawn Wilson and forcing the Pioneers to beat them from the perimeter, Johnson slowly extended its lead to 59-46.
"We can play both ways," coach Vern Simmons said. "We're not just a run-and-gun team. Basketball, in its purest essence, is pretty simple."
Much of the game was a dual between Johnson guard Jalen Mobley, who stands barely 6 feet but plays as if he's a half-foot taller, and Wilson. Mobley scored 31 points before fouling out with five minutes left in the game.
Wilson finished with 40, topping 30 points for the sixth time in his past seven games.
"I've played with Marshawn a lot," Mobley said. "It was a little duel. He's a great player, but we got him."
Simmons said Johnson is playing with a purpose since its 123-119 double-overtime victory over North on Feb. 21, a game that still has basketball fans talking.
Johnson will be making its sixth state tournament appearance in the past seven years. The Governors were upset in the section finals last year and the memories linger.
"That's all I've thought about since last year," Mobley said. "We should have been [to the state tournament] last year. We're there now."