They had a chance at the end, and that's more than it appeared the Blue Devils would have early Tuesday night.
Davenport Central got the ball to star senior Tavian Pomlee in the closing seconds, but he wasn't able to connect on the 3-pointer and force overtime. Instead, Cedar Rapids Jefferson left town with a 59-56 victory.
Afterward, the Devils shrugged off the hard-fought setback and returned their focus to Friday's Mississippi Athletic Conference game at North Scott.
"We're not going to worry too much about this loss," Central junior Zach Burnham said. "It's our second loss. OK, that happens.
"We'll keep battling in the conference to keep our No. 1 seed."
Central (8-2) entered the game ranked seventh in the Associated Press Class 4A poll. Jefferson (8-2) came in ranked eighth.
The J-Hawks led through most of the game, and although Central forced four ties, the Devils never pulled in front.
A frantic effort closed a six-point gap with 1 minute, 22 seconds left to three at the end. Pomlee's effort from the right wing flew long as time expired.
Yet for a team that trailed 18-10 after the first quarter, Central didn't slink away. The Devils trailed by two at halftime and never again let the J-Hawks' edge grow beyond six.
There just wasn't enough offensive composure late as the Devils twice turned the ball over in the final minutes.
"We just couldn't quite get into an offensive flow," Central coach Craig Wurdinger said. "They made it difficult for us to get an open look. And we forced a couple shots and a couple crucial turnovers. You gotta really take care of the ball."
Wisconsin recruit Jarrod Uthoff finished with a game-high 23 points for Jefferson. The 6-foot-8 swingman came in as the state's leading scorer in all classes at 27 points a game.
Burnham bodied him up admirably through most of the game, but Uthoff's teammates came through. Two other J-Hawks scored 12 points, and Jefferson shot 51 percent.
In the fourth quarter, though, the visitors missed six of 14 free throws, providing Central every opportunity to steal the lead. But the Devils couldn't move the ball well enough - they had only two assists - and Burnham fouled out in the last minute.
Central kept coming with seldom-utilized Antwaun Woods converting two layups in the last 27 seconds.
"I knew they were going to make a run at us," Jefferson coach Stu Ordman said. "They always do.
"They're a tough team to reckon with."
Richard Hurt led Central with 14 points, and Burnham added 13.