Taison Chatman walked to the free-throw line calmly, twice in the final 16 seconds. The game was in his hands.
Chatman made all four free throws as Totino-Grace held on for a 50-46 victory over DeLaSalle, successfully defending its Class 3A state title in the boys basketball state tournament Saturday at Target Center.
"It's a great accomplishment to go back to back," said Chatman, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. "It's really special."
Chatman, a 6-4 senior guard headed to Ohio State, made it 49-46 with his last two free throws with 10.1 seconds to play. He then used his length and 3-inch height advantage to hinder DeLaSalle leading scorer Nasir Whitlock on a potential tying three-point shot that came up short with 3 seconds remaining.
"I changed my approach [with Chatman covering]," Whitlock said. "I ended up slipping."
Junior forward Isaiah Johnson added a free throw with two seconds left after grabbing the defensive rebound. Johnson also made a free throw that ended a DeLaSalle 9-0 run that got the Islanders back in the game.
Whitlock's two free throws with 18 seconds left pulled the Islanders within two, 45-43. He also buried an NBA-range three-pointer after Chatman's first two free throws, making it 47-46 with 10.1 seconds remaining. Chatman was fouled on the inbounds play.
"We kept fighting," Whitlock said.
The Islanders (26-6), ranked third in Class 3A, trailed 44-30 after Chatman ignited a 25-7 second-half run, turning a four-point deficit into a 14-point lead. He had five points, four defensive rebounds and three assists during the run.
DeLaSalle then rolled back into the game.
"It was now or never," Whitlock said. "We had some big defensive stops."
The Eagles (24-8), ranked first in 3A, tried to get a body on Whitlock, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, as often as possible, whether he had the ball or not. They also tried to make him play at a much faster tempo, and he lost his footing periodically, including on the last shot. Whitlock, committed to Lehigh for college, finished with 19 points on 5-for-20 shooting with five rebounds and four assists.
"We had four or five players chasing him," Eagles coach Nick Carroll said. "He is a special talent."
The final score nearly mirrored that of a year ago, when the Eagles beat DeLaSalle 50-44 in the finale.
"It's probably a very similar boxscore to last year," Carroll said. "It's going to be that type of game when we play each other."