It simply doesn't get any better than this.

Playing in Herndon's tiny gym bursting at the seams with raucous fans, two excellent basketball teams played a high school game to remember.

And when it was over, South Lakes had scored an emotionally charged 87-81 overtime victory over the Hornets in a AAA Great Falls District game.

Herndon nearly pulled this one out despite the loss of its sparkplug point guard Joey Phillips, who broke his right thumb after scoring 12 points in the first half. South Lakes capitalized on the injury by pressing the Hornets (8-2) for much of the second half.

Without Phillips, the press rattled Herndon and also created the frenetic pace that kept the gym at a fever pitch the whole way. The Hornets led 63-57 with 5:57 left in the game when six consecutive turnovers led to a 10-0 Seahawks burst and a 67-63 edge. Howard Hogan, brilliant all night, keyed the burst with two three-point shots, including one from the deepest part of the right corner that hit nothing but net and forced a Herndon timeout with 3:54 remaining.

"Anytime you lose your leader it hurts but that's not the reason we lost," said Herndon Coach Gary Hall. "Give them credit, they hit shots that normally we would give them. He hit that three-pointer from the corner guarded by our guy, guarded by the fans and he made it. That's the most difficult shot and he made it."

"We didn't want to show it {the press} too soon," said South Lakes Coach Wendell Byrd. With Andrew Frieden handling the ball "that slowed them down a little and we have big guys pressing. At times we can run it all the time but not against a team like this."

South Lakes (8-1) increased its lead to 71-65 with 2:55 to play before the Hornets fought back. Luteke Kalombo (19 points) made a three-pointer and scored on a drive to close the gap to 71-70 with 49 seconds left.

Hogan (21 second-half points) and Herndon's Vinny Bowles traded free throws and Hogan added another for a 73-71 lead. But Freiden (17 points) made two clutch foul shots with four seconds left to force the overtime.

Herndon took the early lead in overtime but Quinn Harwood's three-point play off an offensive rebound gave the Seahawks the lead for good. Hogan scored on an offensive rebound and Herndon's Kevin Cook (22 points) made a baseline jumper for 80-79. But Joey Beard (18 points) scored on a drive and Theron Curry made a steal and scored on a goaltending call with 33 seconds left for an 84-79 lead. South Lakes sealed the win with three of four free throws in the final nine seconds.

For the past five years the road to the Great Falls District championship has run through Reston as the Seahawks have captured all of those titles and have won 41 of 42 regular-season district games. But the district is loaded this year and many big games loom ahead.

"People were calling me, wishing me luck tonight because this was our biggest game," Byrd said. "Yeah, tonight this is the largest game but our district is so strong that if you come out flat in any game, you come up with a big L."

The game surpassed anybody's expectation with the possible exception of Hall. "Yes, this game was everything everybody expected except a Herndon win."

In the girls game that preceded the boys, Andrea Zenone sparked a fast-breaking Herndon team with nine second-quarter points off of four steals as the Hornets (9-1) defeated South Lakes, 68-58.