The ball left Mid-Buchanan guard Bradyn Kemper’s hands. West Platte’s Bryce Cashman left his feet in a leap up and towards Kemper. The game-ending horn sounded, with the basketball arcing upward and headed towards the rim for a game-winning three-pointer. But Cashman’s hand, fully extended and some 10-12 feet above the hardwood, caught just a little piece of the ball. It wasn’t much of a block, but it was just enough to send Kemper’s shot off to the right and a little short. Kemper crumpled to the floor in dejection. Cashman roared and raced to the West Platte bench. He was joined by the rest of the Jays, who celebrated the most important victory of a season already filled with 25 of them. One side of the gym, filled with blue clad West Platte fans, erupted with joy. The other side of the gym, filled with green and red clad Mid-Buch fans, hung their heads in despair. West Platte 62, Mid-Buchanan 60. And so ended one of the best high school hoops games I’ve seen this year, which also reminded me why we watch. Sports are the ultimate reality show, unscripted drama of the highest order. High school sports represent the purest state of that reality-show adrenaline. You can’t find it anywhere else. It can’t be duplicated. The anticipation for Saturday’s Class 2 District 15 championship game had been building ever since Mid-Buchanan handed West Platte its only loss of the season – and just its second loss in two years – on Feb. 11. It gave the Mid-Buch fan base the belief that the high-flying Jays, state runners-up last season and ranked No. 1 in the state’s Class 2 poll this season, were not invincible. They could be beaten. West Platte, on the other hand, probably thought of the game as somewhat of a fluke. After all, Jays senior Adam Roe watched that game in street clothes from the West Platte bench, having been suspended by Jays coach Zane Tanner after receiving a technical foul the game prior. Actually, for Mid-Buch anyway, the showdown had been brewing for much longer. Saturday’s game was the eighth meeting between the two schools since the start of the 2012-13 season. West Platte owned six wins in that span, including four victories last year, one of which was a blowout of the Dragons in the district title game. Just let that sink in for a minute. Eight meetings in two years. So, when the two teams took the floor last Saturday at Mid-Buch High School, on the outskirts of Faucett, there were no secrets. The Jays knew what the Dragons were going to do and vice versa. Whoever was able to impose their will on the other more effectively would move on to the state playoffs and the loser would go home. From the outset, the two game plans were evident. West Platte wanted to rely on its four senior starters and wanted to pound the ball inside, where they had Roe, a 6-foot, 6-inch reigning Class 2 player of the year, Cashman, a 6-10 senior who has signed to play Division I hoops next season at North Dakota and Colton Goodlet, a 6-2 senior who makes his living off of tough work in the paint. Mid-Buch knew it had to rely on a patient, ball-movement strategy that would result in open looks from beyond the three-point line. Both strategies were effective. Roe scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Cashman and Goodlet combined for 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Mid-Buch shot 21 three-pointers and made nine, including five from senior sharpshooter Colton Hoffman. So, it’s no surprise the game was tight at the end. It’s also no surprise that West Platte prevailed. The Jays could have buckled in the last few minutes when it saw an eight-point lead evaporate and missed free throws open the door for the Dragons. They could have wilted in the face of a boisterous and loud Mid-Buch crowd that was stoked into a frenzy by Hoffman’s theatrics. But they didn’t. They got contributions from their star players and also from a supporting cast that is growing in confidence with each game. Junior point guard Cody Guthrie scored five points, dished out five assists and pulled down five rebounds. Senior Dillon Crockett shared ball-handling duties with Guthrie, had five assists of his own and hit a big second-half three-pointer. Junior Connor Salmons gobbled up valuable minutes when Cashman got in foul trouble, scoring six points and snaring four boards. West Platte wants to make another deep playoff run. Their title-game loss last year still stings, even though they don’t openly talk about it. So, those contributions were big for the Jays and head coach Zane Tanner knows it. “You know, Adam, Bryce and Cody all played big for us last year, but those other guys didn’t,” he said. “A game like this is so huge for them and for our team as a whole.” Will the Jays make it back to Mizzou Arena? Heck, I don’t know. A tough sectional game tonight (March 5) is the first test and by the time many of you read this, that contest will be in the rearview mirror. A win pushed the Jays into a quarterfinal playoff Saturday against a likely undefeated foe. So, there are no guarantees. Well, on the outcome of the game, anyway. But I can promise you this — the adrenaline will be flowing at epic levels, the excitement will be high and the drama will unfold right before our incredulous eyes. Like I said, that’s why we watch.