Reno, Nev. - The boys came out of the locker room to a standing ovation from the remaining South Tahoe fans long after the game had ended.
They hadn't won the trip to state, but it was a winning season and an even better 10 years together.
Most of the 11 seniors on the South Tahoe basketball team played together from elementary school on. They were hoping to end that run with a trip to state, but a strong Elko team overpowered the Vikings in semifinals with an 80-42 win at Wooster High School on Friday.
"Not how we wanted to go out, but to me it's a little bit easier to lose to a really good team, and Elko's obviously a really good team," South Tahoe coach Chris Proctor said. "In all honesty, Lowry and Elko should be playing tomorrow...10-0 and 8-2 they're the two best teams out there."
Elko proved it Friday night from the moment the Indians stepped on the court.
The Indians set a blistering pace, climbing out to an 11-2 lead in the first 3 minutes.
South Tahoe called a timeout, and Cale Backinger came back fired up. He put up six points for the Vikings in the remaining first-quarter minutes to keep the game checked at 18-10.
But the Indians were just getting warmed up. They outscored the Vikings 20-10 in the second quarter to extend their lead to 38-20 at halftime.
And with Elko's defense shutting down the Vikings' usual top scorers, a comeback was looking less likely.
"This is a competitive sport, and we all scout each other. We wanted to try to go into the post, but they were very physical in the post so really on all fronts they kind of matched us where we wanted to go and that's why the score was what it was," Proctor said. "Obviously they're just a really good team, and they brought the best package to the floor tonight."
Despite trailing by 18, the Vikings fought through the second half.
Justin Espiritu drained a 3-pointer, and Jason Rogers stepped up with Brandon Cramer under heavy coverage.
Rogers led the Vikings with nine points. Backinger added eight, and Cramer seven.
The Vikings pride themselves on defense, but Elko could not be shutdown. And as the final minutes of South Tahoe's season ticked down, the seniors linked arms on the sidelines.
"They've been together since fourth grade and it's just a great group," Proctor said. "I'm proud of them, and I'm going to hold them accountable for continuing their success."
The Vikings graduate 11 seniors - Cramer, Backinger, Rogers, Espiritu, John Cefalu, Hayden Bronken, Kyante Wilson, Kris DiGrande, Tyler Sharp, Roger Williams and Cody Higgins.
The Vikings end their season 14-12.
Elko's win secured it a state trip, and the Indians went on to win the Northern Division I-A finals 58-54 against Lowry.