The Mark Twain boys basketball team made a furious run at Van-Far on Saturday night during the Madison Invitational championship but fell short in a 74-70 overtime loss.

The Mark Twain boys basketball team made a furious run at Van-Far on Saturday night during the Madison Invitational championship but fell short in a 74-70 overtime loss.

Tigers senior Devin Neff came through with a clutch bucket in the final moments of regulation to force overtime knotted at 56, but Van-Far responded to score the first eight points of the extra session and converted free throws down the stretch to claim the title.

Disappointed in the loss, Neff also pointed out the bright side of his team’s valiant effort.

“Playing this team – they are a heck of a team – I just figured that I needed to show up tonight and be physical,” Neff said. “I am just so proud of our players. We could have had a different result, but four years ago, we were not even thinking of playing in the championship game, we were thinking seventh place. We have come so far.”

With less than a minute remaining in overtime, Mark Twain senior Corbin Eckler drilled a 3-point shot, closing the Tigers deficit to 70-66. On the ensuing inbounds play, Preston Eckler committed a foul in an attempt to lengthen the game. An official deemed the foul flagrant, giving the Indians two free throws and possession of the ball.

The sequence all but sealed the outcome.

The No. 2 seed Tigers kept pace all night with the top-seeded Indians despite spending nearly half the game without star center Grant Peters, who got into early foul trouble.

Mark Twain coach Cody McCann was pleased with his team’s aggressive style of play.

“Our guys played hard,” McCann said. “So much of our game is geared toward Grant that we had to adjust.”

Van-Far’s early strategy was to take the game straight to Mark Twain’s 6-foot-7 center.

The Indians succeeded.

Peters had two fouls by the beginning of the second quarter and sat the last six minutes until halftime.

“Grant is such a dominating player,” Van-Far coach Pat Connaway said. “So much emphasis is placed on Grant that it takes you out of your offense, and they played hard. Normally, we wear people down, but I think they wore us down.”

The persistent Tigers did not fold thanks to strong leadership by Neff, who finished with 12 points.

“I think tonight was his best game of the year,” McCann said of his guard. “He just played so well and was a leader.”

Peters was forced to the bench due to foul trouble much of the night, but when he was on the court, he made an impact, leading all scorers with 23 points and blocking several shots.

The fast and strong Indians burst out of the gate to take a 9-2 lead in the first quarter. Halfway through the period, with powerful inside moves and layups, Peters sparked an eight-point run for the Tigers, who trailed 14-12 through the first eight minutes of play.

Mark Twain took a 28-25 lead into the intermission.

In a tough, physical game, the three-man officiating crew stayed busy, calling 40 fouls, including some tough calls in the fourth quarter and the overtime period.

“I told my guys if they were going to beat us, it was going to be at the line,” McCann said. “Any they did.”

McCann was correct.

Van-Far shot 42 times from the foul line, making 23 of its attempts — the difference in the game. Mark Twain was 8-of-14 from the foul line and actually outscored the Indians from the field, 62-51.

Mark Twain (6-6) hosts Silex at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.