Henry Clay went to five sets for the first time in over a year, but its climb from a 2-1 hole ended with the 11th Region title and a berth in the state tournament.
The Blue Devils' last five-set match was a 3-2 win at McCracken County on Oct. 18, 2014.
Tates Creek looked ready to snap a 20-match losing streak to Henry Clay dating to 2005.
After dropping the first set 25-23, the Commodores stayed composed and capitalized on several errors by the Blue Devils to take games two and three, 25-21 in both.
Then the hammer dropped. Henry Clay jumped out to leads of 5-0 and 16-2 as it cruised to a bruising 25-10 win in game four. It carried that momentum into a decisive 15-6 win in game five.
It was obvious Henry Clay struggled "since it went to five sets," junior outside hitter Hallie Shelton said.
"But definitely at the end you saw that we can fight back," Shelton said.
Shelton showed off a ruthless combination of finesse and power on her way to 26 kills in the match, including three on the final five points of the night.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Hord said junior setter Emma Yarber encouraged the Blue Devils to keep their heads up after falling into a spot it hadn't been in all season.
"She said, 'We have to do this. We're a good team, we know we can do better,'" Hord said.
Sophomore Sierra Gray was jubilant after giving Henry Clay a 3-0 game-four lead, at that point its largest since midway through the second game. The Blue Devils thrive on one another's elation.
"Once we all get excited, no one's stopping us," Gray said.
Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe credited the girls' resilience to the schedule they played this season. In addition to facing fellow Lexington foes, Henry Clay's tests included a visit to No. 2 Sacred Heart, three trips to marquee out-of-state tournaments and a host of other top-20 Kentucky opponents.
Now before the Blue Devils is a prize no Lexington volleyball team has ever earned: a state title.
The first round of state begins next Friday at Valley in Louisville.
Henry Clay, ranked fourth in the state, will meet the winner of the 9th Region championship — either No. 5 Notre Dame or No. 14 Cooper — which is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Ryle.
Grupe said Henry Clay has "maybe been spoiled" this season with several sweeps and that a strong team like Tates Creek pushing it into a 2-1 hole is something Henry Clay needed to prove it could weather.
"I think coming in people thought we were just gonna roll a little bit," Grupe said of the 11th Region tournament, in which the Blue Devils faced Madison Southern and No. 6 Paul Laurence Dunbar before the No. 10 Commodores. "These guys made us earn it. I'm just happy we were up to the task."
Gray finished with 13 kills, three coming on back-to-back-to-back blocks in game three.
She's confident the season has more good things in store for the Blue Devils in spite of what history says.
"If we play like we did in that fifth game ... no one's stopping us," Gray said. "We're doing it, we're winning state this year."