And while superstar senior Cayla McMorris scored 21 points and played outstanding defense, when it was all said and done, four freshmen and a sophomore brought the title home to Brooklyn Park with a 73-71 victory over Marshall High School. With junior all-conference forward McKenna DuBois having fouled out late in the second half, McMorris took what many believed to be a charge, but was called a blocking foul, her fifth, and turned the standout into the team's highest profile cheerleader for the remaining action. McMorris' foul came with just 20 seconds to play in regulation and with the Pirates of Park Center down two after having been down by nine with just over five minutes to go in regulation at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
With Marshall's Sarah Buysse at the line and a chance to ice the game, Buysse, who had nine points, missed the front end of a one-and-one and Park Center's freshman center Mikayla Hayes pulled down the rebound and the team called a timeout with 14 seconds to play. Trailing by two, Park Center coach put the ball in another freshman's hands, point guard Danielle Schaub.
Schaub – who took over the starting role late in the regular season when her older sister, all-conference junior, Hannah Schaub, went down with an ACL injury – drove the lane and with just two seconds on the clock put up a mid-range floater that tickled the twine tying the game at 60 and sending the game into an improbable overtime.
"I knew Danielle was going to make that shot; she's made it hundreds of times before in games and in practice," said first year Park Center head coach, Chris VanderHyde. "For her it's just instinct."
In the first overtime, Marshall took the tip and just five seconds in scored on a bucket by Callie Graff. Marshall held that lead until the 1:23 mark when Pirate freshman guard Ann Simonet scored an inside basket. Simonet, who along with Hayes and McMorris, was named to the all-tournament team, finished with a game high 26 points.
With 1:07 to go in the first overtime, Marshall's Hannah Bennett was fouled and went to the line hitting both free throws and putting Marshall up once again by two. But with just 30 seconds left on the clock, Hayes hit an inside bucket to again tie the contest and send the game to its second overtime.
In the second overtime each team managed just three points apiece with Simonet scoring all the points for the Pirates, who played lockdown defense most of the session.
In the third and final overtime, again Marshall scored first but Park Center came right back to tie the game and with 2:04 left, Hayes drove to the bucket and scored while being fouled giving the Pirates its first lead since late in the first half. Hayes finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and was credited with two blocked shots (Hayes appeared to have had five blocks, but was not officially credited with such).
Marshall again tied the contest, but two Park Center free throws – one by Somonet and one by Schaub – put the Pirates up for good and a steal by Hayes with one second remaining on the clock sealed the victory for the Pirates, who finished with a 26-5 record and the Class 3AAA crown.
VanderHyde said he knew he had a special team early on.
"I knew Cayla (McMorris) was pretty good, but I didn't know if she could lead the team all the way to state," said VanderHyde, who came to Park Center after being the top assistant for the men's squad at Bethel University in St. Paul. "But I can say this, I don't think I've coached anyone as good as Cayla McMorris. She could have easily been all-American or all state, but she sacrificed that for the team. She made me look good as a coach. And Danielle (Schaub) and Ann (Simonet) play well beyond their years. And the biggest contribution of Mikayla (Hayes) was the way she defended. That made a huge difference in every game. Every shot (of the opposing team) on the inside was going to be a tough one because of her."
"One of my goals early on was to get better on defense and I worked really hard at it and it paid off in the state tournament," said Hayes, who is considered one of the top players in her class. Hayes finished the state tournament averaging a double-double in points and rebounds and posted a triple-double during the sectional finals against DeLaSalle, where she scored 10 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 10 shots.
According to Hayes, the team never got rattled on the big stage because of two reasons.
"Having Hannah, McKenna and Cayla, they really showed great leadership throughout the whole year," said Hayes. "And me and all my other friends (the freshmen who brought the title home) have played together since the 4th grade and we just play really well together."
VanderHyde said he looks forward to defending the state crown with everyone returning except McMorris who will be playing next year for the University of Wisconsin.
"This year was rejuvenating as a coach and I owe that to these girls," said VanderHyde. "I definitely want to be around for the 8th grade class to come through the program."