The odds were stacked against them. Having never won a title in the NTC Tournament since joining in 2009-10 school year, Dieterich had the hopes of an entire town on their backs. They were also playing at their opponent's home gym, in front of a sold-out Altamont crowd that was all too ready to cheer the Indians' to victory.
Dieterich had held the lead for most of the night, only to see it turn into a four-point Indians' lead after an Altamont three-pointer on the initial fourth-quarter possession ignited the home bleachers. .
But this wasn't your typical Dieterich team. Seizing the moment, head coach Jeff Staser and the Movin' Maroons were ready for the big-game spotlight. Staser called a timeout following the Altamont trifecta that made it 45-41, and calmly addressed his team.
"I asked them, 'why are we panicking,'" Staser said. "'Let's get the ball up and down the floor, they've got to be tired. You know we can push the ball.'"
His team got the message, exploding for 27 points in the final seven minutes of the game, good enough to turn the four-point deficit into a 14-point lead and a 68-54 victory.
The run started when Maroons' guard Dalton Hinterscher connected on a high arching three-pointer after teammate Austin Bushue put in a bunny one possession earlier to give Dieterich a 48-47 lead.
With Dieterich back on top, Hinterscher, the Maroons' unquestioned offensive leader, could smell blood in the water. After trading buckets, Hinterscher delivered one of the biggest shots of the night with his three-ball off the left-wing to stretch the Maroons' lead to five.
"Coach has been telling us all season not to give up," Hinterscher said. "He told us to just fight through it, and tonight we fought through it."
A quick Altamont three had the game back to one possession with 60 seconds to play before Hinterscher decided to play the role of decoy. Driving to the paint off of a high ball screen, Hinterscher drew three Indian defenders and dished to teammate Tanner Traub on the left baseline. Traub had ice in his veins, burying a three-pointer that again made it a five-point ballgame, and only 50 seconds remained on the clock.
Dieterich would generate two steals on the next two Indians' possessions, hitting their foul attempts down the stretch to capture the enormous win.
"It's special, it's real special," Hinterscher said. "That's about it, I just took what they gave me."
His modesty aside, Hinterscher was phenomenal from start-to-finish. The senior scored the first six points of the game, and
delivered eight big tallies in the final quarter en route to a game-high 29.
"He told me that he wanted the ball early," Staser said. "He said that if it's going to be that heavy of a load, he wanted the ball right off the bat."
Dieterich led by as many as ten points in the first half, and it appeared Altamont was worn out after their semi-final victory the night before. Senior center John Kuhn clawed his Indians' team back into contention, however, scoring 13 points and grabbing 7 rebounds to lead the Indians in both categories.
"John is 6-3, but plays like he is 6-5," Indians' coach John Niebrugge said. He's a great player."
Junior Garrett Ziegler also had a solid day for Altamont, scoring 12 points, and Derek Jahraus finished with 11. Though they ultimately came up short, Niebrugge was still proud of his team's effort.
"We've been down before, and again tonight the boys battled back," he said. "But Dieterich is a very good ball team, they have some scorers."
On top of Hinterscher's performance, the Maroons also received great efforts from Tanner Traub and Alex Bohnhoff. The two scored 13 points apiece. Perhaps most importantly, Dieterich made 22 of their 27 free throw attempts, while Altamont made just 12 of 24.
"We missed four or five front ends too," Niebrugge said. "We led by four, and were on the line. It just didn't happen tonight."
With the loss, Altamont drops to 15-6 on the season. The Indians will look to rebound from the championship defeat on Tuesday when they travel to Ramsey.
The win improves Dieterich's record to 15-6 on the year, and coach Staser had a special message for his team when they huddled with the championship trophy.
"I said, 'this will be on your resume for the rest of your life. When you win it, nobody can ever take it away from you.'"
Dieterich returns to action on Saturday when they battle North Clay at home.
Altamont 5 16 21 12 - 54
Dieterich 8 18 15 27 - 68
Altamont- Kuhn 13, Ziegler 12, Jahraus 11, McGinnis 6, Hill 5, Mayhaus 4, Borders 2, Seidel 1.
Dieterich- Hinterscher 29, Bohnhoff 13, Traub 13, Westjohn 4, Bushue 4, Aherin 3, Niemerg 2.