In her 10th year as Lafayette girls' basketball coach, Allison Denton and her Generals finally ended a decade of disappointment Friday night.
With freshmen Sarah Cooley and Kenyale Demus making big plays down the stretch, Lafayette beat No. 24 Lexington Catholic 30-28 to win the 43rd District title.
It's the Generals' first district championship in Denton's tenure as coach, and the victory ended a 10-game losing streak to Lexington Catholic in that span.
"We finally did it," Denton said, sounding happy and relieved after her team survived a tense finish.
Never miss a local story.
Lexington Catholic trailed 30-27 with three seconds left and had to go the length of the court to tie it. The Knights threw a long inbounds pass to Octavia Wilson, who had enough time to get off a 25-foot shot. It missed, but she was fouled on the attempt.
With two-tenths of a second on the clock, Wilson went to the line for three free throws. She missed the first, hit the second, then missed the third on purpose hoping a teammate could tip it in.
Lafayette grabbed the rebound, however, to seal the victory.
The Generals showed their grit with a fourth-quarter rally that erased a seven-point Lexington Catholic lead.
Demus gave the hosts their first lead since early in the game when she hit a three to put them ahead 26-25.
Wilson answered with a pair of free throws to regain the lead for the Knights with two minutes left.
That's when "cool" Cooley took over.
She took an inside pass from Shomari Kendrick and hit a layup to put Lafayette ahead 28-27. After an exchange of turnovers and missed shots, Cooley rebounded a missed free throw by Kendrick with five seconds left.
Cooley was fouled and hit the first foul shot to make it 29-27. She missed the second, but she snared the rebound and was fouled again. She hit one of two free throws, and three seconds later, Lafayette had its elusive district title.
"That freshman doesn't play like a freshman," Denton said of Cooley. "Her attitude is impeccable and she works hard. You're going to hear a lot about her in the next few years."
Cooley, who led the winners with nine points, said the victory "means everything to us." As for her own heroics, "I just didn't want to let our seniors down."
One of those seniors was point guard Jeriana Gillespie, who had seven points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. Kendrick, a 6-foot-2 senior, had six points, nine rebounds and six steals.
Neither team had much luck finding the basket. Both shot less than 30 percent from the field.
Wilson, a sophomore, led Lexington Catholic with 15 points.
Both teams advance to the 11th Region tournament which is expected to start Monday at EKU in Richmond. It will be the Generals' first trip to the region since 2006.
LAFAYETTE (18-13) — Kendrick 2-6 2-3 6, Justice 0-3 0-0 0, Martin 1-7 0-0 3, Gillespie 3-13 1-2 7, Mynear 1-3 0-0 2, Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Demus 1-2 0-0 3, Cooley 3-3 3-6 9. Totals 11-38 6-11 30.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (19-11) — Botkin 0-3 1-2 1, Walton 2-3 0-0 4, Wilson 4-13 6-10 15, Rhule 1-4 0-0 3, Cawood 0-2 0-0 0, Blake 2-2 1-2 5, Johns 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 9-31 8-14 28.
Lafayette 5 9 7 7—28
Lexington Catholic 5 4 8 13—30
All-tournament — Sarah Cooley (MVP), Shomari Kendrick, Jeriana Gillespie of Lafayette; Elizabeth Walton, Octavia Wilson of Lexington Catholic; Oney Harrison of Tates Creek; Kelli Rinehart of LCA; Kierra Muhammad of Dunbar.