Ebony Rowe wrapped her arms around her 24th rebound and held it tightly.
It wasn't until the Paul Laurence Dunbar senior's teammates started screaming and cheering all around her that she knew it was safe to let the ball fall to the ground.
The Bulldogs had survived a 46-45 nail-biter with Lexington Catholic to advance to the semifinals of the girls' 43rd District Tournament at Tates Creek.
Rowe, who put the Bulldogs up for good with a free throw with 4.5 seconds to go, saw the potential game winner leave the hands of Catholic's Octavia Wilson in time.
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The senior froze.
"My heart just fell," Rowe said. "My heart just fell out of my chest for a minute."
Wilson's shot would rim out and fall into the hands of Rowe, who did everything she could to make sure Dunbar's season didn't end to Catholic for a second straight year.
With the loss, the Knights' season ends in the district tournament for the first time since 1994.
Rowe had an eye-popping stat line of 26 points, 24 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals for the Bulldogs, who won their fourth straight game.
"She played like Miss Basketball tonight," Dunbar Coach Mike Sowers said. "She didn't want her season to end and she did everything in her power to keep it going."
Rowe, who has signed with Middle Tennessee State, scored eight of Dunbar's 12 points in the pivotal fourth quarter.
With several key players in foul trouble early, Catholic got off to a slow start, making just 22 percent of its shots in the first half and falling behind by as many as 10 points.
"There were a lot of jitters and before the game they looked like ghosts," Catholic Coach Tony Talbott said. "But I'm proud they finally came out in the second half and played a lot better."
The Bulldogs had a seemingly comfortable lead, 34-25, going into the fourth, but Catholic raced back at them, using an 11-2 run to tie it at 36-36 on Alex Botkin's free throw.
Lexi Mullikin led the Knights with 16 points, including nine in the fourth.
"We weren't surprised by that run," Sowers said. "They're Catholic and they play with a lot of pride and confidence."
Rowe answered with a driving layup and a free throw.
The Knights got loads of their points off of Dunbar carelessness. The Bulldogs had six of their 28 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Catholic, which only had 12 miscues, scored 20 points off Bulldogs' mistakes.
"If we want to continue to advance, we're going to have to take better care of the ball than that," Sowers said.
Catholic had its chance to win it, getting a contested 12-foot leaner that rimmed out as time expired.
It was the rebound that Rowe grabbed from the air.
"You've got to give her credit," Talbott said of Rowe. "She's a great player. I'm glad to see her go."
Sowers bragged on his senior, too. "I'm proud of her, but I'm proud of the whole team, it's just guts out there, just guts."
Paul Dunbar 46, Lexington Catholic 45
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (14-14) — Wilson 3-11 0-4 7, Botkin 2-10 2-2 6, Walton 4-6 0-4 8, Scott 1-8 4-4 6, Mullikin 7-12 0-0 16, Maronde 0-3 1-2 1, Williams 0-4 1-2 1, Cawood 0-3 0-0 0, Rhule 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-58 8-18 45.
PAUL DUNBAR (20-6) — Fender 1-1 2-3 4, Muhammad 2-4 1-2 5, Rowe 9-15 8-11 26, Ch. Haney 0-4 0-0 0, Co. Haney 1-8 0-0 2, McIntosh 3-9 0-0 8, Parks 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 16-41 12-18 46.
Lexington Catholic 6 11 8 20—45
Paul Dunbar 12 13 9 12—46