It wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as the night before, but it was a championship performance nonetheless.
One night after turning its semifinal victory into a personal playground, Minnehaha Academy was forced to get down and dirty, holding off Crosby-Ironton 47-36 in the Class 2A championship game.
"There's always a good game in the state tournament," Minnehaha Academy coach Lance Johnson said. "No matter if you're better than another team or have more talent, there's always going to be a good game."
Crosby-Ironton, which played its iron-five lineup for almost the entire game, executed coach Dave Galovich's matchup zone defense to perfection. Minnehaha Academy, which had things come so easily the night before, was forced to alter its game.
"It totally had us slowed down," Johnson said. "It had us confused."
As good as Crosby-Ironton's defensive effort was, Minnehaha's was just a little bit better. The Redhawks held the Rangers to 30 percent shooting from the floor, including three of 17 from the three-point line.
That defense was the reason Minnehaha could withstand a Crosby-Ironton second-half run that shaved a 10-point lead down to a single point, 30-29.
Galovich said his team played the game it needed to play to win, but couldn't solve the Redhawks' active defense. "We had the score the way we wanted it," Galovich said. "But Minnehaha's defensive effort was very good. The best we've seen all year."
That comment brought a smile to Johnson's face.
"You don't know how good it is to hear that," Johnson said. "Last year, we said the one thing this team needs to do to win a state championship was to be solid defensively. Defense can help you win any game."
While the defense was holding the lead, super freshman Jalen Suggs scored 10 consecutive points for Minnehaha to open a seven-point cushion, 40-33. He finished with 15 points in the second half and 22 for the game.
"We didn't play how we wanted to play," Suggs said. "We took a timeout, got the team together and just said 'Execute' and that's what we did."
Minnehaha Academy last won a state title in 2012. With only one senior who received regular playing time and a talented group of underclassmen led by Suggs, the Redhawks appear poised for a run of state tournament success.
"We'll be back," Suggs said with a smile.