DeLaSalle's Nasir Whitlock (3) drives for a layup in the second half against Princeton's Cooper Nowak. Whitlock had 28 points, six assists and five rebounds in the Islanders' victory. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
His players answered questions about the rich tradition of DeLaSalle boys’ basketball as coach Travis Bledsoe turned hype man at the far end of the press conference table.
“We’re in the ship, dude. What?” Bledsoe said quietly to no one in particular. “It’s crazy, dude.”
The Class 3A boys’ basketball state tournament championship game will be a private party. The Islanders defeated Princeton 77-65 in Thursday’s semifinal at Williams Arena, setting up a championship showdown with Totino-Grace. The game takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday at Williams Arena.
DeLaSalle, located in Minneapolis, has won 12 state championships, its most recent coming under Bledsoe’s watch in 2019. Totino-Grace, located in Fridley, has never played for the title.
Totino-Grace bested the Islanders 61-58 on Dec. 18.
“We’re pretty familiar with them,” Bledsoe said. “We’ve seen them enough and we’ll be prepared.”
No. 3 seed DeLaSalle (22-7) overcame the more physical brand of basketball offered by No. 2 seed Princeton (27-2). The Islanders led 35-26 at halftime.
The Tigers’ Haydn Stay led all players with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Despite his success, Stay credited DeLaSalle’s defense for controlling much of the game.
“It’s 100 percent their defense,” Stay said. “They are the most talented, fast, long and athletic team that we’ve seen all year. Their grind on the defensive side of the ball was just nothing like what we’ve seen all year.”
Junior guard Nasir Whitlock led the Islanders with 28 points, ahead of Kyle Johnson (15) and Amir Everett (13).
DeLaSalle's Isreal Moses IV takes the charge from Princeton's Cooper Nowak in the second half. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine