The Winter Park Wildcats had a 12-point lead going into the final minutes of the district championship, but they watched in horror as the Edgewater Eagles stripped it away. And as a packed overtime crowd looked on, the Eagles' Kendrick Perry dropped a 3-pointer to swing the score to 73-71 just as the clock ticked to zero.
Pandemonium from an Eagles home crowd exploded onto the court as the Wildcats (23-5) wondered what could have been. For the first time in five years, they were not district champions.
The final act in a five-part drama on the court saw the Eagles (25-3) slowly pick apart a vast Wildcat lead with the smallest of scores. As a near-perfect Edgewater performance at the free throw line eroded the scoring gap point by point, the Wildcats struggled to keep up.
And in the final minute, it all came apart.
At one point in the game the Wildcats seemingly had a win in the bag, with a 19-point lead in the second half that had come on the mounting difference in scoring by the two seemingly talent-disparate teams.
In the shrinking blowout-turned-overtime-shocker, Wildcat star Austin Rivers scored 28 points, 21 of which came from 3-point land.
Now both teams are headed for the playoffs, with Winter Park in the runner-up spot for the first time since before any of its players had donned a Wildcat jersey.
As runners up, the Wildcats start off without a home court advantage, opening regional play at 7 p.m. Thursday against Winter Springs.
If they prevail, they could find themselves in a rematch against Edgewater on Feb. 23.