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John Pryor looked like someone living in the moment, with no desire to cut it short.
The Minnehaha Academy guard lingered on the Target Center floor Saturday, basking in the glow of the Redhawks’ 56-54 victory over Litchfield in the Class 2A championship game.
Pryor accommodated all who approached: fans slapping him on the back and requesting a picture, handshakes from tournament staffers, a seemingly endless stream of reporters asking for interview time. This was history — Minnehaha Academy’s first boys’ basketball championship — and Pryor was enjoying every single moment.
Pryor took on a larger role than originally anticipated when Gerald McCarver, the Redhawks’ leading scorer in 2012, moved to Louisville. In the championship game, Pryor scored 12 points, all on three-pointers.
Not bad for a player who sat out his junior season to focus on his baseball career
“This doesn’t happen all the time,” he said. “This is pretty special.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen, who caught up to Pryor on the court after the game, talked with him about Minnehaha Academy’s remarkable run.
Q: At what point this season did you feel like this team could win the state tournament?
A: After the first time we lost to DeLaSalle, we won seven in a row. Then we lost to DeLaSalle again. Coach [Lance Johnson] told us that if we could win seven in a row again, we’d be state champions. That’s when we first started to believe we could play with anyone.
Q: What made this team better than the rest of the teams in the field?
A: We are as athletic as any team in this tournament. We’re at our best when we’re pushing the ball up the court. We felt like there was no one that [anyone] could stay with us if we played our best.
Q: What made the difference against Litchfield in the finals? That was a very good, experienced team you beat.
A: That was a great team. They’re such a good ball-handling team and they shoot the ball so well. They made, what, 14 three-pointers in the semifinals? We had to make sure we closed out on their shooters and didn’t turn the ball over. And we did that.
Q: As a lefty, did that give you any advantage in the tournament? People aren’t used to guarding southpaws.
A: Maybe a little at first, especially when you jab-step right and go left. But the good players figure it out pretty quickly.
Q: You missed last year to focus on baseball. Glad you came back?
Q: What’s next?
A: Well, I’m leaving for Florida Sunday morning with the baseball team. I was going to Florida no matter what, so I figured I might as well play in a state championship game. I’m going to play next year at Lipscomb University.
Q: Are you ready for the baseball season?
A: I’ve been throwing and working out on Sunday nights. My arm is ready. My dad had been after me to practice for baseball this week, but I told him “Dad, I’ve got to play in a state tournament first.”
Jim Paulsen • 612-673-7737