As soon as the final buzzer sounded in the championship game of the North Dakota Region 2 boys basketball tournament, Thompson coach Brandy George ran across the court to the front row seats where he shared a long embrace with his dad, Corky George.
"He's been waiting for this one longer than I have," Brandy said.
It's certainly been a long time coming for the Tommies.
No. 1 Thompson qualified for the program's first state tournament with a thrilling 59-53 win over No. 2 Hillsboro-Central Valley on Thursday night in front of a full crowd at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The state Class B tournament runs next weekend in Minot.
"This means so much to all of us," Thompson senior point guard Cadyn Schwabe said. "Everyone who has ever played basketball in Thompson has had this as a goal of theirs. I can't put this into words."
In a matchup of the top two teams in the state, the Tommies, 23-1, beat the Burros for the third time this season. H-CV was aiming to be the first team in state history to win three consecutive state championships.
"This is a small part of life, but this is something these guys are never going to forget," Brandy said. "When these kids are old and gray like me, they might not remember the score, but they'll remember the guys you played with and remember what they accomplished here."
As was the case throughout the region tournament, Thompson needed to finish strong. The Tommies trailed by eight at halftime.
With the game tied at 52 with under a minute remaining, Thompson standout forward Hayden Overby went block-to-block finishing with his right hand and was fouled. His three-point play gave the Tommies a 55-52 lead with 53.8 seconds to go.
The Tommies did better than Burros at the line the rest of the way to seal it. With 45 seconds left, H-CV missed two free throws.
On the other end, Schwabe was fouled with 25 seconds left and calmly knocked down both foul shots despite a deafening Betty crowd. The Schwabe free throws gave the Tommies a 57-52 advantage.
"This is something we've been working for since we were little kids," Overby said. "To have setbacks in the past, finally get through and come out on top is a great feeling."
Overby finished with a game-high 26 points, while Schwabe had 16. H-CV was paced by Carson Henningsgard's 24 points.
The Burros' Landen Reed finished with eight points and his foul trouble in the second half played a pivotal role in the Thompson comeback.
"Landen got his fourth and that changed the complexion of the game," H-CV coach Elliot Rotvold said. "They went inside more and took advantage of that. Give them credit, they made adjustments in the second half.
"We've been battling against them three years here trying to get to state. I think they're going to go (to state) and represent us well. They'll be the No. 1 seed and hopefully they come back with a state title and keep it in Region 2."
HIL 19 16 12 6 -- 53
THO 16 10 22 11 -- 59
Hillsboro-Central Valley-Jacob Heinitz 2, Patrick Limke 9, Carson Henningsgard 24, Oscar Benson 3, Colton Anderson 2, Landen Reed 8, Samuel Preston 5
Thompson-Marcus Hughes 4, Cadyn Schwabe 16, Pierce Cooper 2, Clay Odenbach 4, Hayden Overby 26
HAT 5 12 19 5 -- 41
GRA 10 11 14 16 -- 51
Hatton-Northwood-Parker Vaagene 7, Avery Thorsgard 8, Alex Wolfe 12, Colton Konschak 9, Kelby Azure 5
Grafton-Jayse Mecham 11, Stevan Garza 18, Dalton Albrecht 13, Beau Feltman 9