At the end of 32 well-played and hard-fought minutes between the host Greenbrier High School Lady Wolfpack and Grovetown Lady Warriors, it was the Lady Wolfpack celebrating their first region basketball championship since 2007, Tuesday night.
After taking the lead by the end of the first quarter, erasing an early seven-point deficit, the Lady Wolfpack (22-6) fended off all the subsequent Lady Warrior charges, hitting clutch free throws down the stretch to win 64-57.
"I'm so proud of all of them," said Lady Wolfpack head coach Stefanie Basinger, who called the win amazing. "You look at what's in the locker room and there's six freshman, four juniors and a sophomore and they have done something that's unheard of."
The Lady Wolfpack's tight-knit group of juniors - Jennifer McMahan, Morgan Taylor and Mallory Myers - played a key role thoughout the game and each hit clutch free throws down the stretch after the Lady Warriors (20-7) had cut a 57-49 deficit with 1:46 to play to 58-54 on a Rashanna Porter 3-pointer with 1:05 left.
"Our team has worked so hard all season and to see it pay off is great, it's a great win," said McMahan, who topped the 1,000-point mark for her career in the fourth quarter.
Junior Leah Ferguson, who would finish with 20 points, started the game for the Lady Warriors by burying a 3-pointer, and after scoring on a fast-break layup followed by a Naomi Hughes layup, the Lady Warriors led 16-9 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Left-handed freshman Destiny Marshall helped keep the Lady Wolfpack in the game early, scoring 11 of the team's first 13 points and finished with a team-high 17 points before fouling out with 47 seconds left in the game.
Basinger thinks Marshall could be a special player before she is done at Greenbrier.
"As she matures and grows and just learns how to find more of that mental strength and stay consistent, she's going to be a phenomenal ballplayer and she's working on it, she's determined," Basinger said.
Trailing 16-9, the Lady Wolfpack went on a 14-0 run, including a running, banked 3-pointer by Myers as time expired at the end of the first quarter, this coming a night after she sank a long 3-pointer just before halftime in the team's semifinal win against Evans.
Down six at halftime, Ferguson's second trey of the game early in the third quarter brought the Lady Warriors within one, but a Taylor jumper and Marshall conventional three-point play stretched the lead back to six points. A Ferguson jumper closed the gap to two, but a Taylor 3-pointer gave the Lady Wolfpack a five-point advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Of the juniors, Taylor scored 15 points while McMahan and Myers each scored 14.
Like Marshall in the early stages, it was Porter who kept the Lady Warriors within striking distance, converting two traditional three-point-plays in addition to her late 3-pointer, scoring 13 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. Naomi Hughes also chipped in with 10 points.
Both teams will now play host in the first round of the Georgia High School Association Girls State Basketball Tournament on Friday, the Lady Wolfpack as a No. 1 seed and the Lady Warriors a No. 2 seed, hosting Mount Zion and Starr's Mill, respectively.
Lady Warriors' head coach Jaime Echols was proud of the way his team performed.
"I think there's no doubt the two best teams in the region were playing," said Echols, who called it a fun game to be a part of. "We played a good game and they played a good game. You can't be upset with that."
"We've won 20 basketball games and I had three goals coming into this tournament: No. 1 was to qualify for the state. Goal No. 2 was to get a home playoff game and goal No. 3 was to win a home playoff game. So every goal we've had, we‘ve still got."