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Benilde-St. Margaret's pulls away from DeLaSalle for Class 3A crown

Olivia Olson scored 30 points in the Red Knights' victory.
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Olivia Olson had a terrible start to the season. But it couldn't have been a better finish. 

Olson broke her hand in Benilde-St. Margaret's season opener against Providence Academy on Nov. 25 and didn't return until the New Year. But the Red Knights never lost another game after her return, including Saturday's 81-58 Class 3A state championship game victory over DeLaSalle at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. 

"It was so hard for me at the start, first game, first minute, to go down my senior year," Olson said. "I thought it was kinda over for my senior year, but it kinda just helped all of our team rally around each other and we became so close off and on the court."

It's the Red Knights' second straight state title. It also avenges their last loss of the season, which came on Dec. 22 against the Islanders. 

Olson led the Red Knights (27-5) with 30 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Twenty-one of her points came in the back-and-forth first half that saw Benilde-St. Margaret's go into the break with a 44-39 advantage. 

But surprisingly, it wasn't until about midway through the second half — without any points from Olson — that the Red Knights went on a 15-0 run to take firm control. 

Pressley Watkins helped stretch the floor for the Red Knights, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers on her way to 18 points. Zahara Bishop and Sydney Friedly tallied 11 points apiece. The trio helped drive the Red Knights' run. 

Madalyn Blaylark knocked down a trio of 3-pointers during the first half to keep the Islanders (27-4) within punching distance. She had 14. Aneisha Scott led DeLaSalle with 15 points but foul trouble kept her out for an extended stretch in the second half. 

While Saturday's outcome is not the one the Islanders were hoping for, they'll return a strong core next season — and one that will have state tournament experience. 

"As cliche as it sounds, a lot of other teams wish they were in our spot. This group of girls is a phenomenal group to coach. I love showing up to practice," DeLaSalle coach James Fassett said. "I love going to practice every day. For them to have to go through this, it's unfortunate that we're not on the other side, but as I told them, 10 years, 15 years down the road, we'll all enjoy it and remember the experience." 

The Red Knights, however, will now begin life without Olson, a senior. Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Tim Ellefson said she's been everything the program is about during her tenure with the Red Knights. 

"I often talk about our program being about dedication and sacrifice and perseverance and relentlessness, and (Olson) shows that every day," he said. "Always trying to get better, working hard as she can work. Sets a great example for everyone. ... It's just a great mix that's unreplaceable, but we're going to try our best, for sure."