La CROSSE — It had been awhile since Brennan Chacon had been in the scorebook for the Ness City High School boys’ basketball team.

On Friday night, the senior made his return to the hardwood a memorable night in front of a packed gym at La Crosse High School — an atmosphere at times that was loud enough to drown out an official’s whistle.

All Chacon did was bring the Ness City student section to a fever pitch by draining four 3-pointers in the second half in helping the Eagles to an 86-71 victory in the rivalry game.

“I was trying to get my first bucket,” said Chacon, who finished with 12 points in his first game this season. “I didn’t know it was going to be a 3. I was just trying to score and come back and score some.”

Chacon, coming off a torn MCL he suffered in the Eagles’ football playoff game at Hoxie, helped keep the scrappy Leopards at arm’s length in the second half when La Crosse made run after run to get back into the contest.

“We knew they were going to come in with some swagger,” said La Crosse senior Brett Herrman, who finished with 19 points. “They brought in their whole student section, and of course we had ours. We knew they were going to come out firing on all cylinders.”

The Eagles jumped on top early, leading 23-9 after the first quarter before the Leopards got their legs under them.

But an alley oop from junior John Pfannenstiel to senior Christian Scheopner in which he elevated and slammed it home sent the Eagle fans into a frenzy and helped Ness City to an eventual 44-24 lead at halftime.

“That was a big play, and I even got goose bumps after it,” said Pfannenstiel, who finished with 18 points. “This gym is so loud, and our student section was going wild. It was just really fun.”

The Leopards wouldn’t go away, though, trailing 57-40 entering the fourth quarter. That’s when Herrman and his younger brother, sophomore Blake, led a rally. The brothers combined for 16 points in the final eight minutes. Blake Herrman finished with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.

“Big kudos to Brett Herrman,” said Ness City coach Brandt Rogers. “The kid plays like an animal and is all over the court. He does everything you want as a person to coach. If I had him on my team, he’d play. I like the kid and how he plays, and I like his work ethic. And he’s a really good student. He’s signed a really big scholarship to go to Wichita State. Kudos to him.”

Each time La Crosse would make a run, Chacon would bury a 3 from the right wing.

“They were huge,” Chacon said. “I think they gave us a little lead to get through the rest of the game and keep the lead going.”

“Brennan Chacon, you have to give him credit,” Brett Herrman said. “He hit four 3s in a row from the outside, and there was nothing we could do about it. It just happened.”

Rogers said it was great to have the senior back and making an impact Friday night.

“This was his first game back after he tore something in football season,” Rogers said. “We’ve been waiting on him and waiting on him. This is all he’s been talking about for three months. It’s finally good to not have to listen to him talk about it anymore. But he’s a dead-eye shot. If he’s wide open, he’s going to shoot it — and he’s got the green light from me.”

The Leopards cut the lead down to 80-71 with just more than a minute remaining, but Pfannenstiel hit free throws down the stretch to help Ness City escape with the victory.

“Growing up, it was always a big rivalry between Ness and La Crosse,” Pfannenstiel said. “To live that out and continue to play it is just a dream come true. I’ve always dreamed of playing in it.”

The Eagles also got another big performance from junior Andres Rios, who finished with 17 points as Ness City took advantage of a size differential inside the paint. He scored 11 of his points in the final two quarters.

“He’s so versatile as a player,” Rogers said about Rios. “He’s got a big body, but he can move. The way he handles the ball and the way he defends is what I like most about him. Everybody knows he can shoot a nice jump shot, but his defense is phenomenal.”

For Chacon, who signed to play football at Sterling College earlier in the day, it was a perfect return.

“It’s exciting to be out here,” he said. “We have an excellent student section, so it’s fun to be out here and have them cheer us on because you just get energized throughout the whole game. It’s awesome.”

The Herrman brothers combined for 40 points, and senior Zach Peach added 11 for the Leopards.

The two teams could meet again in postseason play. Both are in the Class 2A sub-state at Claflin-Central Plains. The Oilers are the No. 1 team in 2A in the latest KBCA poll. The sub-state also includes Macksville and Pratt-Skyline in the eight-team sub-state.

“Knock them down one rung and hopefully keep us up one,” Rogers said about the win Friday. “I saw Macksville lost the other day, and that puts us just one game ahead of them. We have to keep that because the sub-state pairing are going to be crucial.”

Find a photo gallery from the game here.