HUTCHINSON, Kan. - After a 12-0 run in the second quarter put Cheney up by 8, everything was going the Cardinals way.
The lead increased to 12 in the third quarter, and remained in double digits for a fair share of time.
Then Royal Valley came back and pulled off a stunner.
The Lady Panthers went on a tear in the fourth quarter, completely erasing the deficit behind Mary Broxterman's 25 points and sophomore twins Mahpiya and Wakiyan Irving putting together big games.
WIth Cheney holding a 4 point lead, Broxterman got the bull under the hoop and connected, hitting the free throw to bring them within one.
After Cheney took a 46-44 lead, it was Mahpiya Irving that hit the runner to tie the game up at 46.
Then with under 30 seconds to play and a chance to win, Cheney missed three different attempts, sending the game to overtime.
Cheney took a quick 48-46 lead in the extra period, until Broxterman came through with another and-one to give the Lady Panthers their first lead since the second quarter.
Kylee Scheer answered to give Cheney back the lead with two of her team high 15.
Then tied at 52, Mahpiya Irving again came through with a clutch bucket, hitting a triple from the wing to give the Lady Panthers a 55-52 lead with 27 seconds to play. Cheney's last second attempt to tie the game went long, giving Royal Valley their first state title in school history.
Cheney comes up short of winning the championship for the second time in three years, the difference being this year nobody expected them to make it this far. After graduating six seniors, Layne Needham and Destinee O'Shea were the lone seniors on an underclassman heavy team, and Needham didn't play basketball as a junior.
The team starts three sophomores, Scheer, Lexi Cline and Halley Jones, and their first player off the bench is freshman Olivia Albers.
Knowing that, head coach Rod Scheer had nothing but positive things to say about this group despite the loss.
"This group, I told them I've never been more proud of a team that I've ever had," said Scheer, "I am so proud of these girls, so proud of this season, we just came up a little bit short."
Kylee Scheer's 15 point effort put her at 78 points over the three days of the tournament--including a tournament record 38 in Wednesday's quarterfinal.
I asked Rod to put his dad hat on after the game, and he motioned to his two older kids, Payton and Trent, saying how Kylee grew up watching them play. Payton was a member of Cheney's 2010 championship team, while Trent a part of the boys runner-up squad in 2017.
"She grew up watching these two, and what's she's done since an early age is wonderful," Scheer remarked as he told me I was about to make him tear up.
"I've never been around a more competitive kid."
Cheney ends their year with a 23-3 mark, looking to do what Royal Valley did this season in 2020, going from runner-up to state champion.