Fergus Falls is going to a boys' basketball state championship game for the first time in school history, and the Otters are doing it against the odds.
Fergus Falls defeated Red Wing 58-55 on Thursday at Target Center, surviving when a Red Wing three-pointer was released a split-second after the horn.
Getting that far was never easy.
On Dec. 26, reports indicate Otters coach Dave Rund drove off the road and submerged his car in a pond. Rund was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving at the scene and resigned from his coaching job Jan. 21.
Matt Johnson became coach while Rund's son, sophomore Nathan Rund, continued his role as the team's leading scorer. On Thursday, Rund led Fergus Falls with 23 points.
The third-seeded Otters (28-3) led by eight at halftime, but the lead kept getting smaller. With 3:24 left, Rund shot an air ball.
Sophomore Harrison Christensen picked him up by taking a charge, then drawing a foul on the other end to keep Fergus Falls in control.
Late in the game, Red Wing (28-3) attempted two free throws that could have tied the game. Both missed.
Finally, Rund was on the line with 12.7 seconds left and a one-point lead. He made both shots.
After the Otters survived second-seeded Red Wing's final possession, Johnson said he recalled last year's bus ride after losing in the section playoffs. That was when the team committed to the "all in" theme.
"We're a very close group," Rund said. "In big moments like this, we sure live them up."
DeLaSalle 59, Monticello 45: Islanders coach Dave Thorson won't deny the obvious. His team, going for a record fifth consecutive state title for the school, has faced plenty of pressure this season.
"You can't have your head in the sand and say we haven't talked about it," Thorson said. "I think we've talked more about getting to Saturday this year than any of the previous five years."
When an entire season hangs on a goal such as that, a rough offensive performance in the first half is nothing.
So DeLaSalle, with a strong second half, defeated Monticello to get its shot at the state title.
The Islanders (23-4) earned the victory despite going scoreless in the final 5:50 of the first half, allowing Monticello to close the period on a 13-3 run to cut its deficit to 25-20.
In the second half, the Magic's momentum faded without much resistance. The Islanders opened with a 17-2 run.
Goanar Mar's hot start to the game helped him finish with 20 points for DeLaSalle, and the Islanders got balanced scoring from the rest of its starters.
Matt Todd led Monticello (20-11) with 16, all in the second half, but DeLaSalle's defensive dominance showed down the stretch and sent the Islanders to Saturday's 5 p.m. state championship.
Despite the magnitude that inevitably comes with such a game, Thorson said at this point, the pressure is off.
Now it's opportunity.