Class 3A boys’ basketball championship

No. 1 DeLaSalle (26-3) vs. No. 2 Austin (29-2), 5 p.m., Target Center

 

Why DeLaSalle will win: Five-consecutive state titles give the Islanders a swagger and a confidence no team can match. As Columbia Heights guard Quintin Hardrict said after the semifinals, “They’re experienced and we’re not. That’s big.” Senior forward Goanar Mar is a matchup nightmare, a 6-7 forward who can defend any position and bury three-pointers.

Why Austin will win: Athletic guards Both and Duoth Gach are 6-4 and have a flair for dunking. Defensively, Austin’s full-court trap forced many of Marshall’s 24 turnovers. And don’t underestimate the Packers’ hunger. “We’ve been thinking about [DeLaSalle] all year,” Austin coach Kris Fadness said. “If we play like we did [Thursday] with that type of energy, we’ve got a shot.”

Key to the game: DeLaSalle players warmed up Thursday in T-shirts that read “Mentality.” Austin also believes in the mental game’s importance. “You’ve got to believe you can beat them,” Fadness said. “You’re not just playing against five guys. You’re playing against an aura, a tradition. We feel like we’ve established one in Austin, but we’ve got to at some point kick the door in.”

One thing to know: DeLaSalle defeated Austin in the Class 3A championship game in 2013 and 2014. The average margin of victory was 18.5 points. Catholic school Austin Pacelli defeated DeLaSalle for the Class 1A title in 1992.

DAVID LA VAQUE