FRANKFORT — Dunbar's girls had Lafayette right where they wanted for more than a half.
But Lafayette put together a 10-0 run to end the third quarter and take control of Sunday's 11th Region Tournament finals en route to a 53-40 victory at the Frankfort Convention Center.
"Words can't explain how happy I am," tourney MVP Dee Givens said. "I love my team."
The fifth-ranked Generals (27-3) move on to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 30 years. They will take on 4th Region champion Glasgow on Wednesday.
"We worked hard and I think we've earned this," said Kiara Pankins, who led Lafayette with 25 points. "All season long we've pushed. It's been 30 years since we made it (to State), so we finally did it. This is what we wanted all along."
Dunbar (25-8) came out in a zone defense, clogging up the middle, and stayed patient on offense.
That helped the Bulldogs lead most of the way through a close first half, ending with a 24-23 lead.
The lead was 29-26 early in the third quarter, when Lafayette closed with a 10-0 run to lead 36-29.
Pankins sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a Sarah Cooley layup. Givens closed the quarter with a fast-break bucket.
"They were trying to slow us down a little bit and they really packed it in," Lafayette Coach Allison Denton said. "So we needed to get them running up and down the court. So we had to go 'man' and try to create something, and we picked up our intensity a little bit."
"That's just us pulling through," Pankins said. "That's how we need to play every game."
Givens, held to four points in the first half, finished with 15. Seven of those came at the free-throw line, where Lafayette finished 16 of 20 to Dunbar's 6-for-7. Lafayette's last eight points came at the foul line.
"We played really good 'man' defense and we kept them from getting easy shots," Givens said.
Sarah Cooley led Lafayette in rebounds with 13, adding nine points. Ashanti Thomas, hampered by early foul trouble, had Lafayette's other four points, plus four rebounds.
In the fourth quarter, Dunbar came no closer than six.
"They're a great team and they're going to represent the 11th Region well, and I wish them luck," Dunbar Coach Sarah Bridenbaugh said. "We did what we needed to do in the first half. We just got a little bit away from that late in the third quarter, and then they pulled away from us at the end.
"But I'm proud of my kids for being here and working hard and doing what they had to do to get here."
Brooke Todd led Dunbar with 13 points and 14 rebounds. ShaKeema Jackson added 12 points and Ezzy Ighodaro had 10.
Todd and Jackson had seven points each in spotting Dunbar the halftime lead.
Givens was not worried, though.
"I came out a little rough," she said. "But I knew my team had my back, so I knew we had it the whole time."
Lafayette split the regular-season series with Dunbar and then defeated the Bulldogs in the 43rd District finals.
Lafayette 53, Paul Dunbar 40
Paul DUNBAR (25-8) — Ighodaro 10, Jackson 12, Rosen 3, Todd 13, Armstrong 2. Totals 15-48 6-7 40.
LAFAYETTE (27-3) — Givens 15, K. Demus 0, Pankins 25, Cooley 9, Thomas 4. Totals 17-46 16-20 53.
Dunbar 14 10 5 11—40
Lafayette 11 12 13 17—53
All-tournament team — Briana Lanham, Madison Southern; Tereka Guyn, Scott Co.; Bailey O'Bryan, Madison Central; Lakenzie Ritchie, Western Hills; Nannilena White and Malaka Frank, Franklin Co.; T'Laya Lyvers and Kamari Boyd, Henry Clay; Brooke Todd, ShaKeema Jackson and Ezzy Ighodaro, Dunbar; Kiara Pankins, Ken'yale Demus, Sarah Cooley and Dee Givns, Lafayette. MVP — Givens.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.