IGNACIO - The game, from the opening tip, lived up to its billing.
The frantic finish even exceeded the lofty expectations of a matchup of two state-ranked basketball teams.
In the end, the Telluride High School boys held on for a noisy 50-49 victory over previously unbeaten Ignacio on Saturday night at the raucous and rowdy IHS gym.
A spirited comeback by the Bobcats in the fourth quarter left the leadership of the Class 2A San Juan Basin League in question until the game's final seconds.
The first half alone offered thrills alike for the large home crowd and the sizeable visiting crowd from Telluride - and those two quarters set the tone for the showdown of the No. 4 Bobcats and the No. 10 Miners.
A basket in the lane by Ignacio's Trae Seibel gave Ignacio a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The lead changed hands five times in the second quarter before Telluride all-stater Mike Matthews scored the final 12 points of the half for the Miners, staking them to a 28-25 halftime lead.
Ignacio's Oakley Hayes hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter and tie the game.
Telluride answered with a 7-0 run - a 3-pointer from Ian MacCracken and baskets from Carl Schroedl and Austin Koenig.
Ignacio stopped the run with a basket from 6-foot-7 Alex Herrera and a 3-pointer from Ryan Brooks.
But the Bobcats hit a scoring drought, compounded by the pesky Telluride defense, over the final 3:37 of the third quarter.
The Miners, meanwhile, put up another 7-0 run to take a 43-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
Their lead grew to 12 points when Ignacio's Micah Odoms was called for his fifth foul, and the Bobcats' bench was whistled for a technical foul in disputing the charging call with 6:25 to play in the game.
Schroedl hit both technical shots, and Jarred Brown hit a fastbreak layup to put Telluride ahead 47-35.
But the Bobcats responded to the technical with an inspired charge over the final 6 minutes. They outscored the Miners 14-3, but came up a single point short.
Hayes started the rally with a steal and a layup for Ignacio.
He added a baseline jumper after collecting a rebound.
Herrera contributed his fifth, sixth and seventh blocked shots, and Ryan Brooks contributed a basket on a follow shot.
With the crowd noise shaking the Ignacio gym, the Bobcats and their fans nearly lifted the metal roof off the building with a thundering dunk from Herrera off a picture-perfect assist from Taylor Dean with 2:02 to play.
Herrera's dunk closed the score to 47-43.
A minute later, Herrera cut the lead to 47-46 when he converted 3-of-4 free throws on Ignacio's next two possessions.
Telluride kept the ball in the hands of the skywalking Matthews, who's headed for Fort Lewis to play for the Skyhawks next year.
Matthews missed a pair of crucial fouls shots. But he converted two consecutive free throws with 13 seconds to play to push the Telluride lead to 49-46.
After a missed 3-point attempt by the Bobcats, MacCracken hit 1-of-2 free throws with 4 seconds remaining (50-46).
Ryan Brooks nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final 50-49 margin.
"I think we learned a lot," Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez said as the Bobcats moved to 3-1 overall and in league play.
"This is going to help us. They're a good basketball team. But we know what we have to do now," Valdez said.
"I always give credit to the kids when we win, and I take full responsibility for this loss," the veteran Ignacio coach said. "We lost by one, and I gave up two ... on the technical. I take full responsibility."
Still, he was pleased with the way the Bobcats responded to the adversity and the Telluride lead in the fourth quarter.
"Oakley (Hayes) worked hard. He did a good job," Valdez said, adding that the game provided valuable experience for the Bobcats (in only their fourth game of the season).
Telluride's boys improved to 6-1 overall, 4-0 in the San Juan Basin League.
Herrera led the foul-plagued Bobcats with nine points.
Dean and Seibel added eight points each.
Shane Brooks scored seven. Odoms added six.
For the record, Ignacio held Telluride to seven points in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Miners 16-7.
Matthews, the three-time player of the year in the San Juan Basin League, led all scorers with 19 points and eight assists.
MacCracken scored 11, and Schroedl added 10.
"At the end, we put the ball in Michael's (Matthew) hands," Telluride coach Mike Hughes said. "The other kids trust him. He makes good decisions ... and he made the free throws when we needed them."
Hughes said the Miners decided to slow the game down late to reduce possessions by the taller Bobcats.
"We wanted them to come out and get us. We wanted to limit their possessions," the relieved Hughes said.
"Give credit to their (Bobcats) fans," Hughes said. "They are loud. They're probably worth eight or 10 points here. But we had fans, too. And that made it a lot of fun. This is why you play the games."
Both coaches - and both teams - indicated they're looking forward to the rematch in Telluride on Feb. 14.