Sarah Cooley missed a few Lafayette basketball games during the Christmas break to play clarinet with the school's marching band in the Rose Bowl Parade in California.
Now Cooley and her basketball teammates are marching into the 11th Region girls high school tournament for the second time in three years.
Cooley had 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead No. 18 Lafayette past Lexington Catholic 54-48 in the 43rd District semifinals at Lexington Christian Academy on Wednesday night.
Lafayette will play Paul Laurence Dunbar in Friday's district finals. Both teams will advance to the region.
Cooley was cool in the clutch. The 6-foot junior hit three free throws in the final 22 seconds to help hold off Lexington Catholic.
With no seniors on its roster, Lafayette's young team figured to have some jitters.
"We knew this was the biggest game of the year, and there were some nerves with all of us," Cooley said. "But they went away."
That impressed Coach Allison Denton: "They went out there, with no seniors on the floor, and pushed through a tough game and got the win. That says a lot about them."
Lafayette also got solid contributions from junior Ken'yale Demus with 10 points, sophomore Dee Givens with nine points and 6-3 sophomore Ashanti Thomas with eight points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
Denton praised Thomas for playing through sickness.
"They're so young, but they're so talented, too," Lexington Catholic Coach Scott True said.
The Knights, who lost two of three games to Lafayette during the regular season, went down battling.
They trailed by eight with a minute left, but closed to within 51-48 with 30 seconds left. Cooley's free throws finally shut the door.
Lexington Catholic senior Octavia Wilson shined in her final game. She had 24 points, including five threes.
"Her will to win is unbelievable," True said.
Rachel Blake had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Knights. Bailey Browning had six points and six rebounds.
With Lafayette's size advantage, Lexington Catholic needed to hit threes. It wound up 7-for-28 from long range. "We didn't get enough of them to go down to offset (Lafayette) in the paint," True said.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (11-18) — Wilson 24, Blake 11, Browning 6, Miller 5, Lynch 2.
LAFAYETTE (18-12) — Givens 9, Cooley 15, Thomas 8, Nagahiro 5, Demus 10, Pankins 7.
Lexington Catholic 15 9 9 15 — 48
Lafayette 17 15 8 14 — 54
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337 Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com