Every single person in the jam-packed Forreston gym knew who would be getting the ball in the final seconds of a 4-overtime championship game of the Forreston Regional.
The bigger question was whether or not Braeden Fyock would send the home team into delirium after 16 minutes of tension-filled overtime.
This, after another 32 minutes of back-and-forth regulation play between the Dakota and Forreston basketball squads in a 1A regional final that only provided a 45-45 tie with seconds winding down in a fourth overtime.
Someone had to eventually win, but would the game go into a fifth extra period or would Fyock break free for a game-winning open shot?
With Dakota’s defense stalking his every move, the 5-10 senior guard finally managed to find a sliver of space near the top of the key and quickly released and arching shot that found nothing but net.
It was over and the Cardinal crowd was finally able to let go of pent-up anxiety and explode onto the court to share in the celebration with Fyock and teammates.
“What a crazy game. They’d tie it. We’d tie it,” Fyock said.
It took plenty of work for the final play to come to fruition for Forreston.
“I went back door and couldn’t get the ball,” Fyock said. “Hayden Singley set a screen and Mitchell Heinz set another one. I finally was able to get free.”
Wyatt Rockey, who had been shadowing Fyock, fouled out on Dakota’s opening possession of the fourth OT with a charge to the basket. Evan Flynn, who provided heroics himself at the end of the third OT with a long 3-pointer, took over on Fyock and had him in check during the rest of the fourth overtime.
“On the last possession, it was just a grind out,” Forreston coach Jonathan Schneiderman said. “We didn’t have much left. They didn’t have much left.”
With Forreston able to milk the clock for over 3:30, it was finally time to go and that lone shot of the final period sent Dakota into heartbreak.
“What an unbelievable game,” Dakota coach Mike Bartelt said. “Both teams balanced each other out and someone had to lose.”
For a while, it looked like Dakota would not be in position to play in overtime. With Fyock scoring 19 of Forreston first 24 points, the Cardinals took a 24-16 lead with 11 minutes left in the game.
Rockey finally made a basket to break an 8-minute Indian scoring drought of only one point. By the time Ayres put in another score, Dakota had gone on an 11-0 run and took a 25-24 lead.
“We didn’t give up,” Bartelt. “What hurt us were turnovers. That’s been our bugaboo all year.”
With a chance to close the game out in regulation, it was three turnovers on the final four possessions for Dakota, the last of which was defensive specialist Hunter Rogers tying up
Carter Drake on a drive to basket for the potential game winning score.
In the first overtime, Singley gave the Cardinals a 31-29 lead, but Ethan Greenfield missed two free throws. Heinz rebounded the second miss and converted one of two free throws. Rogers added another charity toss, but consecutive FT misses by Rogers and Fyock gave Dakota life.
It was Flynn scoring a lay-up with 14 seconds left for a 33-33 tie and a Greenfield shot in the corner clanked off.
Forreston missed six of eight free throws at the end of regulation and in the first OT, including three by Fyock, normally an 86 percent shooter.
“That’s what I hate most – missing free throws,” Fyock said. “I was freaked out.”
Flynn made it 36-33 in the extra period two, but Fyock came right back for a 3 of his own to tie the game. Even though Forreston had five straight offensive rebounds on a single possession, they couldn’t get the ball to go in and settled for a 38-38 tie heading into the third overtime.
Greenfield got his shooting touch back and went 4-for-4 from the line in the third OT and Fyock added an old-fashioned 3-point play. That 45-42 lead was erased by Flynn with his 3-pointer with one second left.
“We didn’t have a plan to foul, but we didn’t plan to give up and open three either,” Schneiderman said.
In the four overtimes, it was the same 10 players on the floor for both teams until Trey Engelbracht and Rockey fouled out for Dakota.
“Dakota took a lot of our stuff away – for a whole game and half,” Schneiderman said.
Drake, who sparked Dakota to an 11-6 first-quarter lead on three straight baskets, led the Indians with 17 points. Flynn and Rockey added 11 each. Dakota had 15 turnovers in regulation compared to only eight for the Cardinals.
Dakota (16-12) was 16-for-34 shooting, while Forreston (19-6) was 15-for-45. Rebounding was virtually even.