Everybody in Tates Creek's gym knew who was going to get the ball when Lexington Christian trailed the Commodores 52-51 in the closing seconds of the girls' 43rd District finals Friday night.
"We told our defense over and over, keep Sarah Beth (Barnette) in front of you, she's the All-American," Tates Creek Coach Justin Cheatham said.
"But we didn't stay in front of her, and she stepped up and hit a championship basket."
Barnette's game-winner came after she got the ball on the left perimeter, drove into the lane and pulled up from 8 feet.
The ball bounced softly on the rim before falling through the net with 12 seconds left to give LCA a 53-52 lead.
"I knew it was going in," Barnette said with a smile.
"I'm so thankful and so happy."
Tates Creek still had time to salvage victory, but Lizza Jones lost the ball when she was bumped in traffic near the basket.
LCA won its third district title in four years.
Tates Creek would have pulled off another upset — it stunned Paul Laurence Dunbar in Wednesday's semifinals — if it had hit its free throws down the stretch. The hosts were 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter, including 0-for-4 in the last 1:33 when they could have added to their 52-51 lead.
LCA squandered several chances, too, with turnovers and missed shots, but Barnette ultimately rescued them. The 6-foot-2 senior, who signed with Kentucky, finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Barnette's teammates came up big in the third quarter after LCA fell behind 48-35.
Eagles Coach Jason Seamands said his players looked "dejected and beaten" at that point, so he told them to change their body language.
"And they did. Even when were down by 12, they played like they were up by 12," Seamands said.
LCA wiped out the deficit by scoring the last 13 points of the third quarter. Katelin Bundy had seven points in that surge, and Kelli Mitchuson hit a big three-pointer.
Kelli Rinehart had 12 points and six rebounds for the winners. Bundy had 10 points, and Rachel Cox hit three threes for nine points and had seven assists.
Tates Creek almost won even without point guard Oney Harrison, who tweaked her ankle in practice on Thursday after lighting up Dunbar for 21 points the night before.
The Commodores hustled to make up for her absence, led by Jonas' 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Dominique Etlingturner had 12 points and six rebounds, Katie Pippen had 10 points and five rebounds and Torin Strickland added nine points and four boards.
"Tates Creek outplayed us," Seamands said. "They really scrapped. We tried to sell our girls that this was a different team than when we (beat them by 11) two weeks ago.
"They were more aggressive than us tonight."
Both teams advance to next week's 11th Region tournament in Richmond.
Cheatham told his players, "This game does not end your season. It should motivate you to go farther. When I said that, I saw a sparkle in their eyes."
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (21-6) — Barnette 6-19 2-6 17, Rinehart 6-11 0-0 12, Bundy 4-6 0-0 10, Cox 3-7 0-0 9, Mitchuson 1-7 0-0 3, Eastham 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-51 2-6 53.
TATES CREEK (16-12) — Etlingturner 5-10 0-0 12, Pippen 4-12 1-2 10, Jonas 7-10 2-4 17, Strickland 4-16 0-0 9, Whaley 2-3 0-2 4, Drake 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 3-8 52.
Lexington Christian 16 13 19 5—53
Tates Creek 21 13 14 4—52
Girls' all-tournament: Sarah Beth Barnette (MVP), Kelli Rinehart, Rachel Cox of LCA; Lizza Jones, Lexi Whaley of Tates Creek; Ebony Rowe of Dunbar; Lexi Mullikin of Lexington Catholic; Lisa Hack of Lafayette.