State Girls Basketball: Best friends take center stage in state finals
MINNEAPOLIS - Through the grind-it-out effort of Saturday's Class 3A championship game, Red Wing's Tesha Buck and DeLaSalle's Tyseanna Johnson were smiling and laughing at each other, even throwing a friendly shove for good measure.
While the highly-touted duo was on opposite ends of the court, the two are best friends thanks to their exploits on the court and playing together for the North Tartan AAU basketball team.
"It was fun, but at the same time, we knew we had to get after it," Buck said. "I definitely think we pushed each other on the offensive and defensive end (Saturday)."
Ultimately, Johnson's Islanders squad came away with their third straight state title in a 65-50 victory. In the win, Johnson had a double-double with 12 rebounds and a game-high 25 points.
But sharing the court together made Buck and Johnson's last high school game one to remember.
"Playing against Tesh, my best friend, I think this is one of the greatest games I've played," Johnson said after Saturday's victory. "I think this is the most memorable game I've ever had."
Thanks to a concentrated defensive effort by DeLaSalle, Buck was limited to 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting. She did finish with a double-double, hauling in a game-high 16 boards.
"She's a great player, and I knew it was going to be a tough game and it wasn't going to be easy," Johnson said of defending the Red Wing standout. "It wasn't just about me; I had my teammates behind me."
Both players were named to the Associated Press' All-State team, with Johnson getting first-team honors, while Buck was tabbed for the second team.
For two years, Buck and Johnson shared the court on North Tartan with some of the most highly-coveted players in the state of Minnesota. Along with Buck (Wisconsin-Green Bay) and Johnson (Iowa State), nine players on the team are committed to Division I programs: Braham's Rebekah Dahlman (Vanderbilt), Minnetonka's Joanna Hedstrom (Minnesota), Glencoe-Silver Lake's Clarissa Ober (South Dakota State), Woodbury's Kristina White (Vermont), Eau Claire (Wis.) North's Kayonna Lee (Illinois State), Hopkins' Nia Coffey (Northwestern) and Esko's Savanna Trapp (UCLA).
Johnson admits she doesn't quite know how she and Buck hit it off, but the friendship was instant.
"We clicked from Day 1," Johnson said. "We talk literally every day; sun up, sun down, in school, out of school, everything."
Even before Saturday's state final, the two glowed in their admiration for each other.
"I tell (Tesha) every day that I'm proud of her," Johnson said. "Her work ethic, everything she does, I've never seen anyone work as hard as her. Seeing her go to the next level is the greatest thing ever."
Buck said of Johnson, "She's a great player, definitely one of the best players in the state. ... She's a hard worker and she deserves everything she's getting right now. She deserves that state championship."
While DeLaSalle walked off the court as champions, Johnson gave some kind words to her best friend as they shook hands at midcourt after both proved their mettle as two of the state's finest players.
"I told her that I'm proud of her and don't let this game affect you," Johnson said. "She worked her butt off this entire tournament and this is not the end for her."