DeLaSalle’s girls’ basketball team earned the Minnesota State Class AAA Championship on March 16 with a 56-40 victory over the Becker Bulldogs. The Islanders captured their fourth state title in the program’s history over the course of a four-day State Tournament, defeating Hibbing in the quarter-finals and Holy Angels in the semi-finals leading up to the championship tilt in Williams Arena.
Congratulations to the State Champions! Mary Claire Francois `19, Kate Graham `19, Elaina Jones `19, Alexis Cochran-Starr `20, Nurjei Weems `20, Isabella Benjamin `21, Nora Francois `21, Maguire Murphy `21, Elecia Stevenson `21, Leah Dengerud `22, Kiani Lockett `22, Sydney Runsewe `22, I’Tianna Salaam `22, Savannah White `22, Mya Williams `22, and Ava Wood `22 made up the tournament roster. Head coach, Tanysha Scott `01, captured her first state title in her third consecutive trip to the tournament, assisted by Ashley Ellis-Milan, Ricky Hill, CJ Hallman, and Sadiqah Jihad. Student managers were Rayo Daniel `20, Sabriah Rendo `19, Imelda Mongo `20, and Emma Copeland `20.
The entire team played well throughout the tourney, and three Islanders earned a place on the ten-player, all-tournament team as chosen by all tournament coaches and media: Mary Claire Francois, Nurjei Weems, and Kiani Lockett.
Islander Pride was certainly evident in all corners of Maturi Pavilion and Williams Arena. At all three Tournament games, the stands were filled with parents, families, cheerleaders, the pep band, and hundreds of De students, staff, and alums, proud to cheer the Islanders with boisterous and classy support throughout the three close contests. One of the more magical moments occurred when Rayo Daniel `20 sang the National Anthem a cappella before the semi-final game. It was the second year in a row that the Minnesota State High School League invited Rayo to sing the anthem before one of the tournament games. Rayo earned accolades throughout the arena and on social media after her stirring rendition.
The Islanders finished the year with a 24-5 overall record, winners of 20 of their last 21 games and the final 15 in a row to close the season. DeLaSalle captured the Tri-Metro Conference championship with an undefeated 10-0 record, three games ahead of conference rivals St. Croix Lutheran and Holy Angels, and later captured the Section 4AAA title with victories over top ten ranked St. Paul Como Park and Totino Grace.
In fact, the team played a number of tough opponents during the season, including six games against teams that qualified for the Minnesota State Tournament and one opponent who won 2018 and 2019 State titles in Wisconsin, five other games against teams that finished as section runners-up, and two more non-conference games against teams that were ranked in the Top 10 during the season. Add the three tournament games and De had 17 of 29 games against highly-competitive opponents in 2018-19, finishing 13-4 in those 17 games. This schedule accelerated the team’s improvement and prepped the Islanders for the competitive State Tourney. It also helped De overcome the injuries and loss of three key veteran players during the season — Elaina Jones, Kate Graham, and Alexis Cochran-Starr. To their credit, all three were outstanding teammates and provided valuable support to the younger players during the Tournament.
DeLaSalle’s girls’ basketball program has consistently been among the very best in Minnesota over the past two decades. The Islanders were making their tenth trip to the Class AAA State Tournament in the past 14 years. Champions of Class AAA in 2011, 2012, and 2013, they also finished third in 2006 and 2010 and finished second in both 2007 and 2008. Since 1998-99, DeLaSalle’s girls’ basketball program has a streak of 21 consecutive winning seasons, with a total of 480 victories (average of 22.8 wins per season).