Totino-Grace repeats as Class 3A state champions
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Chants of “Back to Back” began building through the Totino-Grace student section late in the second half of the Class AAA championship game on Saturday at Target Center. It started as an almost trepid kind of cheer, but then as zeroes on the clock were imminent, it built to a crescendo as the final horn sounded. To all that were witnessing the Class AAA championship game between the Eagles and DeLaSalle, any victorious proclamations would have been premature.
It wasn’t until junior forward Isaiah Johnson made a single free throw with 2.3 seconds remaining in regulation that top-seeded Totino-Grace could bust loose following a 50-46 victory over No. 3 DeLaSalle in the title game between Class AAA powers. The victory capped Totino-Grace’s successful defense of the Class AAA crown it won in 2022 and completed a 24-8 season in the Eagles’ seventh state tournament trip. Six of Totino-Grace’s losses this season were to Class AAAA schools. The other two losses were to schools out of state.
Totino-Grace held a 10-point advantage at 44-34 over DeLaSalle (26-6) with just under five minutes remaining in regulation. From that point on to the final horn, it was a grind-it-out-to-the-finish where every possession meant something crucial, be it a basket, defensive stop or a scramble for a loose ball.
While Totino-Grace went scoreless for nearly three minutes, DeLaSalle climbed to within 47-46 on a three-pointer by senior guard Nasir Whitlock with 10.1 seconds left in regulation time. Forced to foul, the Islanders did so before the inbounds. The beneficiary was Totino-Grace senior guard Taison Chatman, who made two free throws to push the lead back to three. But moments later, Whitlock’s three-point attempt fell short and Johnson was immediately fouled.
Chatman finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Tommy Humphries added 11 in the surprisingly low-scoring game that put so much value on each made basket or free throws.
Whitlock finished with 19 points for the Islanders, who were seeking their 13th state championship. Senior Israel Moses V added 11 points.