DeLaSalle senior point guard Tyrell Terry heard the doubts when Dave Thorson, a nine-time state tournament champion coach, stepped down before last season. He heard the laughter when the six-time defending champion Islanders fell in the Class 3A semifinals last year.
So to close out his decorated prep career with a 63-56 victory against Waseca on Saturday at the Target Center brought relief and redemption. DeLaSalle captured its seventh state championship in eight seasons and 12th title overall.
"Everyone thought the DeLaSalle dynasty was done," Terry said. "To have the buzzer go off and to be champions, there isn't a feeling that's comparable."
Terry spent the final seconds streaking down the court with his arms raised in triumph. Earlier in the game, he made similar dashes with a basketball in his hands.
His biggest moment came midway through the second half. Waseca senior guard Malik Willingham, who surpassed 2,000 career points in the game, dribbled near the Islanders' three-point line when Terry pounced.
Terry stripped Willingham of the ball, then sprinted to the other end for a dunk and a 48-36 lead with just over nine minutes to play.
Waseca didn't quit. Matt Olsem, called the "Dancing Bear" for his quick feet that belie his 250-pound frame, made the play of the second half for the Bluejays.
Moments after play resumed following a timeout by top seed DeLaSalle (27-5), Olsem stepped in front of a pass near the Bluejays' three-point arc and dashed the other way for a layup.
The play cut the Islanders' advantage to 48-44 and brought nine sections of applauding, blue-clad Waseca fans at the Target Center to their feet.
Then Jamison Battle gave DeLaSalle an emotional lift, draining a three-pointer and putting his index finger to his lips.
"I told Coach, 'I'm going to ring the bell,' " said Battle, who finished with a game-high 26 points.
Second-year DeLaSalle coach Travis Bledsoe said the phrase means "knock down that shot when your number's called."
Once again, No. 2 seed Waseca (30-2) kept fighting back. Willingham hit a deep three-pointer to cut the Bluejays deficit to 62-56 with 23 seconds remaining.
"We didn't execute as well on offense as I'd like to see," Waseca coach Seth Anderson said. "A lot of what-ifs in a game like that, a lot of, 'Man, usually he makes that shot.' "
The Stanford-bound Terry made his final high school game a showcase for his various talents. He scored 19 points, dished 10 assists and went 9-for-12 from the free throw line.
"He's tough as nails, mentally and physically," Bledsoe said. "He's arguably the best point guard in the country."