HOISINGTON, Kan. - The Knights entered the tournament as the bottom seed with just one win on the season. Victoria moved through the bracket with three straight wins to open 2019 with a 4-2 record.
"The guys just really kind of stepped up," said Victoria coach Collin Schmidtberger. "We've been working to get better every day in practice and they knew they were better than what they've been playing against. Our schedule isn't easy, so that doesn't help. They came in here with the expectation they were going to make it to the championship and the did that."
Saturday's championship game saw five lead changes in the third quarter, then two more in the fourth. Hoisington, winners of the last three Winter Jams, trailed 37-33 after three but led 48-44 with 1:09 to play thanks to a basket and foul from sophomore Drew Nicholson, then an offensive rebound and free throws from sophomore Mason Haxton.
The Knights took advantage of some missed Cardinal free throws to stay in the game, then got a turnover and called a timeout with 6.8 seconds to play. In a physical game all night, senior Cooper Windholz drove and scored through contact to tie the game with just two seconds remaining and the clock running.
"I was supposed to get it and look to score first, but we were trying to set it up with Caden (Oberle) as our second option since he's had a great tournament," Windholz said. "But I was looking to score right off the bat.
"I knew there was a lot of contact. I didn't know if they were going to call a charge on me or an and-one. I was happy to get the bucket at least."
Nicholson opened the extra frame with a basket for Hoisington. A Windholz basket with 2:32 to play put the Knights ahead 52-50, then Oberle scored for a 54-50 lead.
The Cardinals never quit fighting. Missed free throws on the Victoria end with 24 ticks remaining left the door open for the Cards. Haxton made one of two free throws with nine seconds to play, then Victoria sophomore Nick Dreiling did the same a second later. With a chance to win, Nicholson's 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed off.
"The resilience of these men is out of this world," Schmidtberger said. "They're not going to give up. As a coach, you can't ask for more than that. This one is all them. They won this game, I didn't."
In a close game all night, the teams were tied 9-9 after one quarter. Cardinal sophomore Chase Robinson got the roll at the buzzer to give Hoisington a 23-21 lead at the half.
Windholz scored eight of his 15 points for Victoria in the final 12 minutes. He also grabbed 12 rebounds. Dreiling hit three treys in the third quarter and finished with 14 points. Oberle scored seven of his 12 points in the final 12 minutes and also grabbed 13 boards for his double-double.
"It's a big emotional roller coaster," Windholz said of the tourney run. "We knew we were getting close. We knew this year we'd have a better year, we just knew it'd take a few games. It took a little longer than we wanted it to but we're starting to play as a team instead of just ourselves."
Nicholson led all players with 19 points. Haxton missed some time with a bloody nose and finished with 17 points and six rebounds for Hoisington.