For the third straight season, Eisenhower watched a lower-seeded opponent celebrate at the state tournament.
The top-seeded Tigers lost to No. 8 Mill Valley 68-64 in the first round of the Class 5A boys basketball tournament Wednesday. That seemed an unlikely prediction after the first half.
Senior point guard Dylan Vincent scored 19 points in the first half on 8-of-10 shooting. After going scoreless in the first quarter, the supporting cast found its stride, and the Tigers went into halftime with a two-point lead.
In the second half, Eisenhower shot under 40 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three. Vincent was dejected postgame.
"I just can't believe it's over," he said. "These are my brothers. I really wish it wouldn't have ended this way."
In 2017, Eisenhower lost 57-55 to Shawnee Heights in overtime in the 5A semifinals . The year before, the Tigers lost in the first round 69-62 to KC Washington.
This year's tournament marked the third straight season Eisenhower entered as the No. 1 seed.
"When you get to the postseason, I don't think it matters what your record is, what your seed is," Mill Valley coach Michael Bennett said. "That's a battle of wills. It's a battle of making shots. All season we've been up and down, and right now, we're on the up."
Freshman Keeshawn Mason had two points in the first two quarters. Those two points came on a dunk that forced a handful of nuts and bolts to pop off the backboard.
That was a sign.
Mason scored 18 second-half points. He shot from the elbow, used a range of post moves and even scored off the dribble. And Eisenhower could not stop him.
"They beat us; they definitely beat us," Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said. "That kid is gonna be a beast for the next several years."
He wasn't even the Jaguars' biggest contributor though. Senior Cooper Kaifes scored 32 points, his second straight 30-point game. In the sub-state final, he hit a buzzer-beater for the win .
Kaifes presented a different challenge. At 6-foot-3, he worked as the Jaguars' point guard, but like Mason, Eisenhower struggled with his size and shot-making ability.
He was 9 of 15 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from three. Kaifes said the Jaguars were just waiting and hoping for Eisenhower to start missing shots.
"Best feeling ever, beating the No. 1 seed, are you kidding me?" he said. "Nothing like it."
Eisenhower has struggled with size all season. Arkansas City swept the Tigers for the first time in school history this season, and Goddard took Eisenhower to the wire in two of their their three meetings. Both teams have better size that the guard-heavy Tigers struggled with.
The Tigers' seniors will graduate with a 73-19 record over four years but only one win in the state tournament. Blue said he hopes that is not what his group will be remembered for.
"The thing I'll always remember is just going to battle with my brothers, just grinding with them," Vincent said. "Coming up short is just gonna be a terrible memory."