NEW LONDON -- The Wildcats led all the way but Minnehaha Academy had the last laugh.
The Redhawks, who trailed by 19 with six minutes left in the second half, overtook New London-Spicer in the last minute and then broke a 69-all tie with a rebound basket with just a second left.
The private school along the Mississippi River returned to St. Paul with a 2-0 record after beating the Wildcats 71-69 on Saturday afternoon and Class AA power Perham (29-3 last season) on Friday.
The Cats led 36-24 at halftime and 59-40 with 6:11 on the second-half clock on a 3-pointer by senior guard Aaron Ruter.
The Redhawks roared back as the host team went cold and the visitors' expert outside shooter, Jesse Johnson, finally got his sights adjusted.
NLS still held a 65-57 lead with 2:26 left but needed Ruter's defensive rebound followed by his coast-to-coast burst for a layup to tie the score 69-all with 11 seconds left.
The Redhawks' Kaharri Carter, who finished with 20 points, missed a 12-foot jump shot from the baseline but 6-foot-4 Thomas Gedion was in position for the rebound. His putback went in -- only his second basket -- just before the buzzer sounded.
Officials put a half-second back on the clock and Tyler Halvorson got off a 28-footer from the sideline to win but it missed.
"They were so quick, athletic and physical," said NLS guard Joey Dreier, who finished with 18 points and 7 assists. "We did a good job on them the first half but couldn't handle them in the second. Still this was fun."
Coach Lance Johnson's all-senior Redhawks team was given the favorites role coming in, especially after handling Perham, which won the third-place game at state last year.
"We like to pressure," said Johnson, "but we couldn't pressure their guards and get turnovers. Jesse Johnson makes 50 percent of his 3-point attempts but we were 0-for-12 at halftime."
Johnson sank four treys in the second half, three in the last six minutes on the way to 16 points.
Marcellous Hazzard also scored 20 points for Minnehaha Academy.
Halvorson finished with 17 points, Brett Olson 13 and Ruter 11 for NLS.
"Credit Minnehaha; they made the plays on offense and defense late," said NLS coach Chad Schmeising. "We started well defensively. We had our chances late but [Hazzard] had an amazing block from behind and [Johnson] hit some huge shots."
Though just the opening weekend, the game had all the excitement and intensity of the playoffs.
Despite the disappointment of letting it get away, Schmeising said he was pleased with the intensity and poise the team showed against a very good team.
Minnehaha 71, NLS 69
Minnehaha Academy (2-0) 24 47 -- 71
New London-Spicer (0-1) 36 33 -- 69
MINNEHAHA ACADEMY - 27-77 FG (4-24 3-pt); 13-18 FT; 42 rebounds; 24 fouls ... Scoring: Marcellous Hazzard 20, Jesse Johnson 16, Evan Taddonio 4, Jahleel Davis 2, Tom Gedion 5, Dane Birkeland 4, Kaharri Carter 20 ... 3-point shots: Johnson 4 ... Steal leaders: Hazzard 6
NEW LONDON-SPICER - 21-44 FG (5-9 3-pt); 21-28 FT; 28 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Reid Johnson 1, Adam Essler 2, Trent Boie 2, Joey Dreier 18, Tyler Halvorson 17, Nick LaPatka 5, Brett Olson 13, Aaron Ruter 11 ... 3-point shots: Halvorson 3, Dreier 1, Ruter 1 ... Rebound leaders: Boie 4, Dreier 5, Olson 9 ... Assist leaders: Dreier 7, Ryan Vraa 5 ... Steal leaders: Ruter 5, Dreier 5, Boie 5