For the last three seasons, the boys edition of the Barnes County Basketball Tournament has come down to two teams â€” Valley City High School and Maple Valley High School.
But not even Maple Valley coach Jay Kocka would have predicted that Saturday's 47-46 win for the Raiders at W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse would have been that close.
"Give Valley City credit. With their zone they ran, we didn't attack too much but we hung around and gave ourselves a shot," he said.
And although Kocka used the term "shot" figuratively, the game seemingly came down to a shot from Maple Valley senior Jordan Haseleu.
With 19 seconds left in the game, Haseleu dropped a 3-pointer from right behind the arc, center on the court, that made it 47-46. When Valley City got the ball in and pushed it down court, the Hi-Liners couldn't find an open look, missed on a contested layup by Chase Carpenter, and Maple Valley got the rebound to clinch their fourth straight tournament title.
It's only the second time in tournament history a team has won four tournaments in a row. Page High School won it four times from 1985-1988.
"It's a great accomplishment," said Haseleu, who has been on all four winning teams. "It's great for our school, great for our community, great for our fans. It's fun seeing all the people come out and enjoy it."
The win was also the 100th in Kocka's career as coach for the Raiders.
And enjoy it they did, as fans from both schools packed the Bubble, complete with the VCHS pep band. As the game progressed, the student sections from both schools, including Valley City's "Blue Crew" traded chants supporting their team.
In terms of play, the two teams each had quick runs in the first with Maple Valley scoring the first five points of the game before Valley City came back and eventually got a five point lead of their own, before the teams ended the opening quarter tied 17-17.
Otherwise, neither team gave the other room for error.
Austin Svenningsen gave Valley City a quick bucket to start the second quarter, but Maple Valley quickly responded with a shot by Haseleu and free throws by Brady Behm to go up 21-19. That was answered by Valley City, who got free throws from Mason Denholm to tie it back up.
Maple Valley finished the half ahead 27-26.
In the third, Maple Valley forced the Hi-Liners to play from behind.
A layup by Dacotah McGough gave LLLM a 29-26 lead, which Denholm narrowed with a mid-range jumper. A Haseleu 3 extended the lead to 32-28 but Valley City answered to tie it 32-32 shortly later.
James Richman eventually scored four points to give Maple Valley a 38-34 lead, but Valley City got shots from Denholm and Jarod Nelson to tie it 38-38 after 3.
The final quarter came down to heavy defensive stops on both sides, but Valley City started it off by taking a lead on a short shot by Tayler Lentz and a free throw by Denholm to go up 41-38.
Haseleu then hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 41 with 7:05 left in the game.
Lentz and Chase Carpenter then had layups in the next minute to go up 45--41 with six minutes left.
The next two and a half minutes, the teams traded defensive stops, but Haseleu ended the stalemate by driving up the lane, drawing a foul, and hitting the two free throws to make it 45-43.
After a free throw by Carpenter made it 46-43 with 1:42 left, Haseleu again got it the lane, hitting a layup to make it 46-44 with a minute left.
Then, with 19 seconds on the clock, he hit his game-winning 3-pointer, which caused an excited reaction from the packed crowd.
He said though it was nice to get the reaction, the key was to stay humble as the Hi-Liners made one final drive, which ended on a missed layup by Carpenter that a Raider grabbed for a rebound.
Haseleu finished the game with 20 points, including a 5-11 effort from the 3-point line. He was helped by Richman, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Behm also had seven points.
Valley City was led by Carpenter with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Denholm added 13 points and seven rebounds, and Nelson had nine points despite foul troubles throughout the game.
Valley City coach Scott Hurlimann credited Denholm with playing "maybe one of his best games ever."
"I thought Mason played really well and we need that type of game from him the rest of the year," Hurlimann said.
Though the Hi-Liners were disappointed following the game, Hurlimann said the team's bigger goals with the Eastern Dakota Conference are on the horizon.
"The EDC is what matters for us," he said. "We like the Barnes County Tournament but we need to win some EDC games and our goal is the EDC tournament, so that's what we need to go for next."
Kocka's 100th win, which comes in his seventh year as the Raiders' coach, wasn't lost on the Maple Valley crowd, which had a banner congratulating him as time expired.
Though he felt the circumstances of the win were special, he gave credit to the players on the court that he's had throughout the years.
"I don't really look at that for myself, it's all about the kids," he said. "Give credit to a lot of kids that I've coached in the past, too. Their hard work and dedication and sacrifice to Raider basketball- all that they've done before these kids have made it a tradition for us here at the Barnes County Tournament, and it makes it special for the group that we have."