With a little more than one minute left and the outcome of the Class 3A basketball state championship settled, DeLa-Salle senior Mary Claire Francois checked out of the game and into a celebratory hug with coach Tanysha Scott.
The two held tight to one another and began to shake with joy. The Islanders defeated Becker 56-40 and Francois, who entered the program as one of a half-dozen eighth-graders, went out a winner.
"She's the one that really stuck through it and stayed," Scott said. "I told her, 'This is what we've been waiting for. This is what we wanted.' "
Francois, younger sister Nora and Nurjei Weems all started Saturday at Williams Arena, and the trio of 6-footers asserted themselves at both ends. Their teammates did likewise. The length and active hands of DeLaSalle's players brought inside scoring and harassment of Becker's offense.
Dan Baird, coach of the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs (27-5), brought in a mix of players' fathers and Becker boys' basketball players to Friday's practice to simulate DeLaSalle's size and quickness. But the real thing couldn't be overcome.
No. 1 seed DeLaSalle (24-5) led 31-22 at halftime on the strength of superior inside scoring (22-6) and points off turnovers (14-3).
"All five of their kids have long arms and are extremely active," Baird said. "It was hard for us to get in a groove all game."
The Francois sisters and Weems combined for 35 points on mostly put-backs and lob passes.
Defensively, the Islanders didn't give Becker a moment's peace. They invaded passing lanes, tipping balls away or making Becker players work hard to secure catches. They started with mostly man defense, shadowing Becker shooters on the perimeter and running occasional double-teams at standout guard Julia Bengtson.
Becker finished the game 4-for-18 (22 percent) on three-pointers after making more than 50 percent of their threes in its first two state tournament games.
Showing life to start the second half, Becker scored seven consecutive points. The surge cut the Bulldogs' deficit to 31-29.
"We had chances to tie or take the lead but we didn't capitalize," said Baird, adding that his team's 26.5 percent shooting percentage was a season low. "It seemed like throughout the entire season we were able to impose our will on other teams, and it got reversed today."
A 10-0 spurt in the second half gave DeLaSalle a commanding 50-36 lead with 2:13 left.
DeLaSalle, a Minneapolis private school, won its first Class 3A championship since capturing three straight from 2011-13.