St. Paul Johnson beats Grand Rapids for 3A title, 1st Ld-Writethru, BKO
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — St. Paul Johnson finished a perfect season, offering a tribute to the Capitol city and a closing argument that they're the state's best team regardless of class.
Estan Tyler scored 20 points and pushed St. Paul Johnson to its first boys state basketball championship Saturday in a hard-fought 59-55 victory over Grand Rapids in the Class 3A tournament.
"We had the city of St. Paul on our backs, and we pulled through," said senior Maxie Rosenbloom, who had only four points but five rebounds and three steals while playing his usual tough defense inside.
Roosevelt Scott added 12 points for the unbeaten Governors (32-0), including two crucial free throws with 10 seconds left that stretched their lead from two points to four. Scott added six rebounds and three blocks, and Donte Warlick had eight points and four rebounds for a St. Paul Johnson team given all it could handle by Grand Rapids.
The Governors were in a tight game with Winona in the semifinals, too, before using a flurry of 3-pointers to complement their relentless pressure and pull away for an 80-55 victory.
Grand Rapids never flinched, though, even after falling behind 56-48 with less than 3½ minutes to go.
Eric Stark scored 15 points for the Thunderhawks (29-3) and got a tough layup to fall in traffic with 46 seconds left to pull them within 56-55. The Governors had missed the first shot in two one-and-one free-throw situations right before that.
Tyler missed one of two free throws with 25 seconds remaining, giving Grand Rapids a chance to tie the game or take the lead trailing by two. St. Paul Johnson's full-court press forced a turnover near midcourt to keep the game in control, though, and Scott came through by swishing a pair of foul shots.
"They didn't concede anything. They fought hard," said St. Paul Johnson coach Vern Simmons, whose team topped 100 points four times this season and beat Class 4A finalist Hopkins.
This was the first title for a St. Paul city school since Highland Park's in 1999. Players filed out of their locker room with red eyes, overcome by the emotion of their feat.
"You talk about the economy and everything that people are going through, it's nice for our community to have something positive," Simmons said.
Grand Rapids was led by six seniors making their third straight state tournament appearance, including super-quick point guard Michael Johnson who wasn't intimidated by the Governors and their trapping, tenacious defense. Johnson finished with 13 points.
"We'll look back on this in time I think and be real proud of what happened here, but it's tough right now," coach Dan Elhard said. "We had a chance to do something really, really special."