Cretin-Derham Hall has built its phenomenal season on the back of its defense.
And that, too, is what the Raiders will ride into the Class 4A title game.
Cretin-Derham Hall held Maple Grove to 32 percent shooting from the field in its 54-42 semifinal victory Thursday night at Target Center.
Cretin-Derham Hall will play Wayzata in the state championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday at Target Center.
Raiders senior wing Jack Tauer said growing up, his dad Johnny Tauer would pull him out of school to go watch the state tournament. Now, he’s living it.
“To be able to go out there and go to the championship, it’s almost like a dream come true,” he said. “So we’re going to be ready for it.”
The Raiders held the Crimson to just three points over the course of nearly 12 minutes in the first half as their lead ballooned from 6-5 to 23-8.
Maple Grove’s lone bucket in that span was a 3-pointer from Morgan Moore, and even giving that up upset Tauer.
“Defense wins championships,” Tauer said. “I felt like we game-planned for them really well. We knew their tendencies, and we were just committed to our roles and kept them off the offensive glass.”
What a fitting path for Cretin-Derham Hall to take into the final. This is a team that started the year 4-4 and had minimal expectations from the outside.
But the Raiders bought into excelling on the defensive side of the ball. That buy-in led to performances like Thursday.
The Crimson went just 5 for 20 from the field in the first half as Cretin-Derham Hall built a 29-16 advantage by the break. Maple Grove never got the deficit back into single digits.
“It’s fun to be a part of a team who just buys into coaching, and they’re so coachable and just are willing to do what’s best for the team,” Raiders coach Jerry Kline Jr. said. “Defensively, they don’t care who gets the credit, they just find a body and they rebound and they just get after it, and it’s so fun to be a part of. I give the credit to the kids.”
Maple Grove averaged more than 60 points a game this season. But Cretin-Derham Hall hasn’t surrendered that many points to an opponent in more than a month.
In two state tournament wins, Cretin-Derham Hall is giving up an average of just 41 points.
The strong defense helped the Raiders not only survive but build on their lead in the first half after Tre Holloman, the team’s star point guard, went to the bench for the final nine minutes of the half with two fouls.
That allowed Cretin-Derham Hall to flex its balance. Marselio Mendez, Daniel Montalbano and Jack Plum combined to score 28 points.
Holloman said his teammates are always ready for such situations because they take time in practice to run sets without him on the floor. He had full confidence in his guys, though Tauer noted that might have been the first time he played some point guard since ninth grade.
“What I love about this team is we’ve got a bunch of seniors, and the moment is not too big for them, and they were able to just make enough plays. With our star player sitting out … it’s a testament to those guys being ready and being prepared to extend the lead and be able to play with confidence without Tre. The credit goes to them.”
After sitting for so long, Holloman said his teammates did a great job keeping his spirits up at the break.
Then, in the second half, the four-star recruit took over. He came out looking to score, noting that’s what his team required at the time.
Holloman scored 14 points over the final 18 minutes on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished with a team-high 18 points, four assists and three steals.
Holloman also put the exclamation point on the evening with a scintillating slam with roughly half a minute to play.
“Man, that felt so good,” Holloman said. “It was the dagger.”
WAYZATA 72, SHAKOPEE 43
Drew Berkland, Camden Heide and Carter Bjerke combined for 46 points as Wayzata moved past Shakopee Thursday night and into the Class 4A final.
The Trojans held Shakopee to 33 percent shooting, including just 3 for 16 from deep. On the flip side, Wayzata shot 52 percent from the field and 10 for 16 from beyond the arc.
The Trojans led 38-16 at the break. Saturday will mark Wayzata’s second title game appearance, with the first coming when the program won state in 1959.
Mick Wherley led Shakopee with 12 points and 10 rebounds.