Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks their top five memorable moments. Herald sports reporter Tom Miller continues his list with this No. 4 memorable moment.
Some of the best sports atmospheres in this area -- often underrated, if you've never experienced it -- are small high schools playing for a rare chance at a state tournament.
And one of the best hosts of this atmosphere in our area is Thief River Falls' Ralph Engelstad Arena, which has the beauty of Grand Forks' version of REA but also the intimacy a smaller venue can provide for a prep event.
Now, mix that ideal setting with a fantastic back-and-forth basketball game that saw one buzzer-beater to force overtime, another buzzer-beater from halfcourt to win it in overtime and you have one of the most memorable career moments for this Herald writer.
On March 16, 2007, Badger-Greenbush-Middle River's Nathan Thompson drained a halfcourt buzzer-beater in overtime to lead the Gators to a 68-65 win over Fertile-Beltrami in the Minnesota Section 8A championship game in front of more than 2,000 at REA in Thief River Falls.
The win put the Gators in their first Minnesota state Class A basketball tournament.
BGMR coach Kent Christian said after the game that he put the ball in Thompson's hands from underneath the Falcons' basket with 2.4 seconds left because Thompson was Christian's quickest player.
"Nate struggled from 2 feet, but from 40 feet ...," Christian said after the game.
The game's first buzzer-beater came in regulation when Fertile-Beltrami's Cory Stevens nearly fumbled the ball out of bounds before getting off a 15-foot fade-away from the right corner to tie the game at 61 and force overtime.
With 24.7 seconds left in overtime and the game tied at 65, Thompson missed two free throws for the Gators to give Fertile-Beltrami what appeared to be the last shot of overtime.
But Fertile-Beltrami failed to score and turned the ball over with 2.4 seconds remaining.
"Coach just said go and get a shot off and play the second overtime," Thompson said after the game. "He said just don't turn the ball over."
Stevens scored 19 to pace Fertile-Beltrami, which led 34-20 at halftime. The Gators struggled early, not taking their first lead until 2:33 to go in regulation.
BGMR's draw at its first state tournament wasn't as fortunate as Thompson's halfcourt heave. The Gators played St. Bernard's, led by Trevor Mbakwe, who would become a two-time all-Big Ten Conference selection at the University of Minnesota.
The Gators lost 64-46.
Regardless of any state tournament outcomes, BGMR's first section title will be remembered by this writer for a long time.
Herald Top 5 memories
4. A halfcourt buzzer-beater to get Badger-Greenbush-Middle River to state is tough to top