LOVELAND — The entire season came down to one quarter, and the Holyoke boys basketball team did just enough in that final frame to beat Sedgwick County 44-41 in the Class 2A state title game on Saturday night.
The Cougars and Dragons battled neck-and-neck from start to finish at the Budweiser Events Center, finding themselves tied at 35 after three quarters of play.
"These kids have worked so hard just to get here, and this is exactly the way I wanted it to end for them," Holyoke coach Scott Dille said. "We were as close as we could have been, and that’s what you get when you play a team like them."
With the state championship on the line, Holyoke senior Alex Strauss stepped up to help his team win its third title in program history – its latest being in 2010.
He had a rather quiet first half, but bounced back to score 10 of his 13 total points after halftime and knocked down some clutch shots for the Dragons.
"I wanted it so bad. It’s an amazing feeling to win it for my city, with my team," Strauss said. "It’s just surreal to go out like this, with a 'W' in the final game ever. We wanted to bring it back to Holyoke this whole time."
Also playing a big role for Holyoke (22-5) was senior Austin Herman, who finished with a game-high 16 points. Senior MJ Taylor also reached double figures with his 10 points.
"I don’t know if I can put it all into words," Dille said. "What I see is a group of kids who came to the gym every day and went as hard as they could at it just to have this moment."
Sedgwick County (24-2), whose only defeats this season have been dealt by the Dragons, were paced by its pair of senior forwards in Michael Nein and Chad Mikelson. Nein joined Herman as the game's leading scorer with 16 points of his own. Mikelson finished with 14 points, 10 of which were scored before halftime.
Trailing by three points, the Cougars had a number of shot attempts from behind the arc in attempt to force an overtime period, none of which they could get to fall.
"We knew we would have to bring everything we had, especially when you play (Sedgwick County)," Strauss said. "We stuck to our guns and everything fell into place for us. It’s everything we’ve always wanted."