FARGO - It was a moment Christian Kuntz had been waiting for his entire high school career.
The leading scorer in West Fargo Sheyenne history, Kuntz said a major personal goal of his was to hit a buzzer-beating shot to help his team advance in the postseason, a goal he was in position to accomplish Saturday.
Having overcome a 16-point second-half deficit, the Mustangs battled back to force a 56-56 tie with Grand Forks Red River in a state qualifying game. And with just 1.8 seconds remaining, they were confident they would complete their comeback, when a long-distance 3-pointer by Kuntz off an inbounds play looked to be perfectly on-line.
But after dipping into the cylinder, the shot rolled out as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
"I had complete confidence (it would go in)," Kuntz said afterwards. "We had a good play call, we ran it perfect. Unfortunately, it just didn't go down."
It was that type of week for the Mustangs.
The Class A state runners up a season ago, Sheyenne built on that success throughout 2018-19, winning a program record 18 regular season games.
But following an 80-64 loss to Devils Lake in the opening round of the East Region Tournament, the Mustangs' season was quickly in peril.
After keeping their state hopes alive with a 72-66 elimination game win over Fargo North Friday, Sheyenne overcame a dismal first half and appeared to have all the momentum going into overtime of Saturday's matchup with Red River.
That changed on the opening possession, when Roughrider guard Jackson Feller got a clean look from the outside and sank a 3-pointer. It was the start of a great offensive stretch for Red River, which led by as much as seven in the extra period.
The Mustangs once again battled back, and still had a shot to extend the game on another wild late-game sequence.
Down by four, Kuntz cut to the basket, made a layup and was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. After he deliberately missed the free throw attempt, teammate Chuck DuBois chased down a long rebound and appeared to be contacted as he heaved a desperation shot from the corner.
But in a game that featured 67 foul calls, the officials elected not to blow their whistles, as Dubois shot fell short and the Mustangs' season ended with a heartbreaking 75-73 loss.
Though a slow start and a double-digit deficit that lasted for nearly 15 minutes of game time proved too much for Sheyenne to overcome, coach Tom Kirchoffner did compliment his team's resolve.
"We get punched in the mouth and sometimes we don't attack right away (and) they got after us," Kirchoffner said. "But I'm proud of our guys. They didn't quit. That would have been the easy thing to do but we made it tough on them and we had a shot at the end."
While the bulk of his team is coming back next year, Kirchoffner will lose Kuntz, the first 1,000-point scorer in program history, as well as "great glue guys" Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kanega.
Though his career ended in disappointing fashion, Kuntz doesn't expect results like Saturday to become a trend at Sheyenne.
"The guys on the C-team, freshman team, JV team, they all want to get better," Kuntz said. "And that's the first step to having a championship-type program is having guys that want to be at the top. That's what we have here."
A succinct Kirchoffner expressed a similar sentiment.
"Our guys are a resilient group," he said. "They'll respond."