"As a coach, you sit there and watch things unfold," winning head coach Jason Marlett said. "You're used to your team making three or four big plays and just taking off, just because that's what they normally do. It was a struggle for us offensively, but it's kind of been that way lately, and I don't think they panicked."
The last time they trailed in Saturday afternoon's championship game at Sumter County Civic Center was 2-0. The last time there were tied was 7-7 with 2:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Patrick Henry (18-5) was within nine points (34-25) when its leading scorer, Saniah Sexton, charged into the lane with elbows flying and got a technical foul for her trouble. Taylor Campbell hit both free throws.
The Lady Patriots had the ball trailing by seven points (36-29) with 7:03 to play. Campbell made a steal and dished an assist to Ruthie Moore.
Campbell, the engine that runs the Laurens Academy offense, got her fourth foul with 2:30 to play. Marlett left her in the game, and she converted five out of six free throws as the Lady Crusaders froze the ball and kept the Lady Patriots' defenders at bay.
"Taylor's matured a lot," Marlett said. "She's earned my trust, and I think when you're in that situation, you have to have her on the basketball court. You just have to have her. I could have sat her, but we might've lost the lead. Between her and Jennifer (Wu) handling the ball, I thought they did a great job.
"(Campbell) does what she always does well. She managed the game. Put the ball in her hands, and she makes good decisions. She expects to shoot well. She puts in countless hours, and normally she shoots the ball well. She realized that either she needed to get to the rim, or just manage the game and feed her teammates."
Blair Quarles, who scored eight points, and Wu, who had seven, took up some of the scoring void that occurred particularly in the first half while Campbell and Moore were struggling.
At every crowded crossroads, Laurens Academy (31-1) beat the traffic, even though both Campbell, who scored 16 points, and Moore, who added 15, had off games shooting.
"Our experience is what won it for us," Moore, a junior, said. "Being here last year helped a lot. Now, when something bad happens, we know what to do. We didn't ever let (the Lady Patriots) get on super-long runs."
The Lady Crusaders, who had no particular size advantage, outrebounded Patrick Henry, 43-28, and forced 23 turnovers. They made it to the Class A finals for the second consecutive year and this time took the trophy home with them.
"Last year rebounding was our Achilles heel, and we have gotten so much better in that regard," Marlett said.
"To look at the big picture and see that this team won 31 games and the state title, I'm just so proud that these girls have played together for so long and they were able to accomplish it," Marlett said. "They'll always have that."
"So much credit for this championship goes to my teammates," Campbell said. "When I'm off, and when Ruthie's off, we look to our teammates, and I'm so proud that I play on a team where, it doesn't matter who's on or who's off, we've all got each other's backs."
PATRICK HENRY (34): Sexton 11, Wiggins 8, Bridges 1, Priestor 7, A. Moore 2, Taylor 2, Cone 3. Three-pointers: Cone. Field goals: 10-31 (.323). Free throws: 13-19 (.684). Rebounds: 28. Turnovers: 23.
LAURENS ACADEMY (48): Campbell 16, Williamson 2, Quarles 8, R. Moore 15, Wu 7. Three-pointers: Campbell, R. Moore. Field goals: 17-44 (.386). Free throws: 12-23 (.522). Rebounds: 43. Turnovers: 14.