For 27 minutes, the Vandalia boys basketball team did everything it needed to do to pull off an upset of its biggest rival on the road.
But then, everything that could go wrong for the Vandals did go wrong over the final five fateful minutes.
Now, Jan. 16 cannot come soon enough.
That's the next opportunity the Vandals will get to upset the team favored to repeat as SCC-East champs. And you can rest assured that the chants of "just like football" from Greenville's student section following a heart-wrenching 48-42 loss will still be fresh in the Vandals' minds when the Comets visit VCHS.
Victory appeared within the Vandals' grasp after an Angel Osorio basket in the lane gave VCHS a 37-33 lead with a little more than five minutes to go.
But the Comets responded with an 11-1 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes that proved to be too much to overcome, despite an effort that was beyond valiant.
"Our guys are going to walk out of here with their heads held high, because that's the kind of effort we're looking for," Vandals coach Kevin Jackson said. "If we get that on a nightly basis, we're going to win our share. Unfortunately, they executed tonight when they needed to, and we just didn't get it done."
The Vandals made it clear early and often that they came to play, stifling the Comets defensively on their way to an 18-12 halftime advantage, as Greenville shot an abysmal 21 percent from the floor (5 of 24) in the opening 16 minutes.
The talented Comets were destined to get a few more shots to fall in the second half, however, and that's exactly what happened, as they used a quick 10-3 run to take a 22-21 lead early in the third quarter.
But the Vandals refused to let the Comets seize the momentum during a third frame that featured seven lead changes.
The Vandals' resilience was never more evident than at the end of the quarter, as Austin Wollerman beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer, answering a Todd Eaton trifecta seconds prior that had given Greenville a four-point lead.
Marty Johnson then started the fourth quarter with a bucket that gave Vandalia the lead, and the sophomore added a 3-pointer moments later to break up a 32-32 tie at the 5:53 mark.
After Rutger Neece hit one of two free throws, Osorio gave the Vandals their biggest lead since the start of the second half, 37-33, with a runner in the lane.
But turnovers on VCHS's next three possessions opened the door for the Comets, and they capitalized, scoring six momentum-swinging points off the giveaways - including a 3-pointer by Ryan Mulholland that gave the host team a 39-37 lead it would not relinquish.
Then, following a free throw by Dylan Durr, the Vandals suffered an unfortunate sequence that proved too much to overcome.
First, Eaton was left wide open under the basket, and a teammate found him with a pass from the top of the key for a layup that increased Greenville's lead to 41-38.
"They got a ball screen there," said Jackson of the play. "... We just didn't quite rotate where we needed to."
A Vandals player then stepped on the line inbounding the ball, giving the ball right back to the Comets. Kyle Dannaman followed with a dagger of a 3-pointer out of a Vandals timeout, giving Greenville a commanding 44-38 lead with 2:15 remaining.
"We executed very well at times," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, they made some really big shots when they had to."
Following a free throw by Will Cowger that made it 44-39, the Vandals had plenty of time to come back. But they simply could not get a call to go their way in the final two minutes.
After Wollerman hit a pair of free throws to cut Greenville's lead to 44-41 with 1:26 to go, Neece scored on a drive in which Vandal supporters felt a charge should have been called.
It then became clear that it simply wasn't going to be Vandalia's night when Johnson was knocked to the ground on a drive to the basket on the Vandals' next trip down, but no foul was called.
Despite the unfortunate final five minutes, Jackson chose to focus on the silver lining.
"We outplayed them in a lot of areas," Jackson added. "We just didn't score more points than them."
One of those areas was rebounding, where Vandalia held a 31-25 advantage. Austin Wollerman set the tone on the boards again, finishing with 15 rebounds to go along with a team-best 15 points.
Marty Johnson added five rebounds and 11 points.
"I thought we rebounded the ball very well on the night," Jackson said. "They didn't get many second chances."
Greenville may not have been able to escape with a victory if not for a 14-5 advantage in the turnover department.
Greenville also won the JV contest, 54-45. The Vandals played a strong second half, but couldn't bounce back from a rough first quarter in which Greenville raced out to a 17-6 lead.