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Minnehaha Players celebrate their state championship (David Joles, Star Tribune photo)

Minnehaha Academy held off Litchfield’s last-second attempt for a 56-54 victory in the Class 2A boys’ basketball state championship on Saturday afternoon at Target Center.

John Pryor kept his arms high and body close as the game-tying effort drove to the basket. Kaharri Carter wouldn’t let his Redhawks (24-6) teammate stand alone in the final seconds, though. Together the pair stifled Zach Whitchurch’s layup attempt.

“To end the game on a defensive stop is pretty huge.” Pryor said. “It’s an incredible feeling. There’s nothing like it. It’s great to do it for the school and be the first team in school history to win it.”

Minnehaha Academy’s ability to continually adapt to different styles of play produced the title. The group said they’ve become like Chameleons. The No. 1 seed survived through another slower-paced game after having to speed it up in the semifinals.

Marcellous Hazzard said none of the three state tournament games were consistent with their usual style of play.

“We adapt,” Hazzard said. “We’re Chameleons that adapt to anything. [Litchfield (26-6)] slowed the game up and we still produced.”

Hazzard led the Redhawks’ production with 14 points. Pryor had 12 points and Carter 11.

Pryor’s highlight of the game was the final defensive stop, but two of his four three-pointers in the final seven minutes helped the Redhawks maintain an edge. Litchfield took a 46-45  lead at 7:33 in the second half, but Pryor took it back moments later. His final three-pointer extend the Redhawks’ lead to 53-49.

Hazzard also responded well to Litchfield’s game plan of forcing Minnehaha Academy to survive on the perimeter. The guard was 3-for-3 from behind the arc after just making seven three-pointers in the regular season.

“We got overlooked this year. We weren’t even supposed to win section,” Carter said.

Litchfield lost in the Class 2A championship game for the second straight year, handing coach John Carlson just his second loss in the tournament (13-2).

Senior forward Riley Pater said last year they were physically outmatched and on Saturday Minnehaha held an athletic advantage. Pater scored 16 points to lead the Dragons. Dylan Koll and Cameron Sundmark each had nine points.

“They played our game – slower,” Pater said. “They’re just very athletic players. It’s tough to get this far [and lose again].”


JASON GONZALEZ

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3 Stars

1. Marcellous Hazzard, Minnehaha Academy

Hazzard led the Redhawks with 14 points. He shot perfect from 3-pt range going 3-3, 5-7 from 2-pt range, and 1-2 from the free throw line. He had 6 rebounds on the night, three offensive which was key for Minnehaha. Hazzard's consistency was what kept the Redhawks in the game the first half as the other Redhawks started to get their wings.

2. John Pryor, Minnehaha Academy

Beyond the arc is where Pryor did his damage today. He shot 4-9 from the 3-pt line, two threes coming at clutch moments when the game was a one possession match. Pryor finished with 12 points, and also had an assist and a rebound.

3. Riley Pater, Litchfield

Pater was the biggest man on the court, and lead the field with 16 points, shooting 8-14. He was the Dragons go to guy in the paint where he scored all of his points. His strength was his friend today, battling the deep Redhawks all the way to the last minute.

-Trevor Squire, MN Basketball Hub

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