It was a more-than-packed house — fans were turned away at the door — at DeLaSalle Saturday to watch one of the most anticipated boys’ basketball games of the season.
Cretin-Derham Hall, winners of 16 of its previous 17 games, played at three-time defending Class 3A champion DeLaSalle. Going into the game, the Islanders had won 18 consecutive games since losing to Apple Valley on Dec. 13.
Both teams boasted star power: Sacar Anim, Gophers recruit Jarvis Johnson and Josh Collins play for DeLa-Salle, Sam Neumann, Joe Rosga and a finally healthy Donnell Grisham for Cretin-Derham Hall. This, clearly, was must-see basketball.
Those fans who could fit in DeLaSalle’s Nicollet Island gym were treated to a game that rivaled the best a state tournament could offer.
Cretin-Derham Hall started strong, determined to avoid a repeat of 2014 when DeLaSalle ran the Raiders out of their own gym with a 46-14 first-half blitz. This time the Raiders jumped out to a 9-4 lead, weathered a DeLasalle run and closed the first half with a run of their own for a 35-22 halftime lead.
In the second half, every DeLaSalle attempt at changing momentum, which included a technical foul on coach Dave Thorson, was countered by Cretin-Derham Hall. The Raiders frequently beat the Islanders down court for easy baskets. Neumann, a 6--7 forward who has signed with Montana State, found space to operate underneath the basket and finished with a game-high 24 points. Rosga added 20 points as the Raiders handed the Islanders their first loss in two months, 77-65. Anim led DeLaSalle with 22 points and Johnson had 14 despite struggling at the free throw line.
DeLaSalle (19-3) has one more big test before the postseason begins. The Islanders close out the regular season Saturday at Iowa City West.
• St. Michael-Albertville senior guard Jackson Greenwaldt became the leading scorer in team history when he scored 15 points in a 56-36 victory at Duluth. Greenwaldt, who quarterbacked the Knights to the Class 5A football semifinals, has 1,361 career points through Monday. The former record-holder? None other than current Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth.
• Boys’ basketball game of the week: Hopkins at Eden Prairie, 7 p.m. Friday. The regular-season finale for both teams is likely to decide the Lake Conference title.