Most people figured Lexington Catholic's girls were too young and too inexperienced to be the best team in the 43rd District this season.
"Probably the toughest district, top to bottom, in the state," first-year coach Chelsea Chowning said.
But that speculation only motivated Lexington Catholic to prove its doubters wrong.
Wednesday night, the No. 24 Knights did just that by beating Tates Creek 49-43 in the district semifinals. The Knights will face Lafayette in Friday's title game.
"Everybody underestimated us, and we shocked everybody by how much we improved this year," sophomore standout Octavia Wilson said after leading Lexington Catholic with 21 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Tates Creek gave a good account of itself against Lafayette. After knocking off Paul Laurence Dunbar in the first round, the Commodores rallied from an 11-point deficit to give Lexington Catholic a fight to the finish.
Oney Harrison, who had 18 of her 22 points in the second half, sparked a comeback that pushed Tates Creek into a 34-34 tie with the Knights early in the fourth quarter.
"She's got great range and is a tough matchup," Chowning said of Harrison, a sophomore point guard.
But Lexington Catholic met Tates Creek's challenge.
Wilson hit a three-pointer to regain the lead for good for the Knights. Bonnie Rhule followed with a fast-break layup to make it 39-34.
Tates Creek cut the deficit to 40-38 with 2:12 left, but it would get no closer.
"We knew Tates Creek could score in bunches, but we were able to weather their run," Chowning said.
Wilson, who scored Lexington Catholic's first nine points, accounted for the Knights' last six at the foul line to seal their victory.
Alex Botkin, a 6-0 junior, had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. Eighth-grader Rachel Blake grabbed nine rebounds.
Lexington Catholic's defense did a great job on Tates Creek's Peyton Hisel, a 6-foot-1 junior who had 22 points and 15 rebounds against Dunbar. Her only points against the Knights came on a three-pointer, and she had just two rebounds.
"She was dominant against Dunbar, so we knew for us to have a chance, we needed a team effort stopping her," Chowning said. "Elizabeth Walton did a good job keeping her away from the basket and limiting her touches."
Tates Creek had a poor shooting night: 15-for-52 (29 percent). Katie Pippen had eight points and six rebounds for the Commodores, and Lexi Whaley added six points and five rebounds.
Tates Creek, which lost to Lexington Catholic twice during the regular season, is 0-9 against the Knights since 2004.
TATES CREEK (10-20) — Harrison 7-18 6-8 22, Whaley 2-7 0-0 6, Pippen 3-16 1-1 8, Tichenor 2-4 0-0 4, Hisel 1-3 0-0 3, Drake 0-1 0-0 0, Etling-Turner 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 15-52 7-9 43.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (19-10) — Botkin 5-12 3-4 13, Johns 2-4 0-0 4, Wilson 6-11 7-9 21, Rhule 3-5 0-0 7, Walton 0-0 1-2 1, Blake 1-3 0-0 2, Cawood 0-5 1-2 1. Totals 17-40 12-17 49.
Tates Creek 4 10 17 12—43
Lexington Catholic 13 9 10 17—49