The feeding frenzy began early in the second half, when Minnehaha Academy decided it was time to crank up the defensive intensity.
By the time it was over Friday, the Redhawks had turned a tight game into a rout, crushing Annandale 76-44 to advance to the Class 2A championship game for the second time in five years.
Guard Jalen Suggs, a freshman in name only, led Minnehaha Academy (25-5) with 23 points, along with six rebounds, five steals and four assists. Forward Javonni Bickham added 16 points, nine rebounds and a physical presence inside.
In the first half, the two teams engaged in a battle of contrasting styles, with Annandale controlling the pace with a deliberate offense and zone defense. The Cardinals built a 23-19 lead, thanks to 11 points from Jarod Wilken, and their fans smelled something special.
That smell turned sour quickly, however, as the Redhawks closed the half on 10-2 run for a 29-25 halftime lead.
It never got any better for Annandale (27-5). Minnehaha Academy's superior athleticism took over in the second half, its players tipping passes, contesting shots, and outleaping the Cardinals for rebounds and winning virtually every race down the floor.
"That was the key to the game, the second-half defensive intensity," Minnehaha Academy coach Lance Johnson said. "We were OK in the first half, we just weren't turning them over. At halftime, we said, 'This is the half to get you to the state finals, let's take it up a notch,' and they did that."
Minnehaha Academy's ball pressure and quick hands shocked Annandale with a 31-6 second-half run. It was, Suggs said, a basketball celebration.
"It's a lot of fun when we're getting those leak-outs and fast breaks," Suggs said. "We got, like, 10 straight points off of turnovers and that was big for us."
"We knew what we were getting into," Annandale coach Skip Dolan said.
"We knew how athletic they were and the size they brought. We felt in the first half we played the way we wanted the game to unfold."
The completeness of the Redhawks' demolition left an admirer in Wilken, who finished with 13 points.
"They're big and athletic and that's tough," Wilken said. "We can handle small and athletic. They're just a different caliber of team."