Sayre girls' basketball coach Scotty Sutton said he and his team were in a strange situation going into Saturday night's All "A" 11th Region finals against Model.
"This was the first time ever we've been in this spot, where we were the favorites," he said. "It was very, very difficult emotionally."
Maybe so, but after a slow start, Sayre got down to business and beat Model 45-26 at Lexington Christian to earn its second straight trip to the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic state tournament.
"LCA beat us in the finals so many times, I didn't know if it'd ever happen," Sutton said. "Now, to do it back-to-back, I'm ecstatic."
Sayre will play 4th Region champ Clinton County Wednesday afternoon in the Frankfort Convention Center.
Last year the Spartans surprised Frankfort in the region finals for their first-ever title.
This time around, Sayre, led by Gabby Bowie and a solid supporting cast, was supposed to win.
Bowie, a 6-foot-3 senior, helped make sure it did. The daughter of former Kentucky star Sam Bowie had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
While she was a force inside, Dee Dee Wheeler provided outside support. The 5-6 freshman hit three three-pointers in the first half and finished with 12 points.
When Sayre pulled away in the second half, 5-4 sophomore Elle Alford had eight of her 10 points.
Isabel Pergande added seven points, four rebounds and three assists. Hannah Brady had four assists and three steals as the Spartans ran their record to 15-2.
"We played our game, and everyone stepped up," said Bowie, who missed the first few weeks of the season with an Achilles injury.
"Everyone has improved so much since the beginning of the year. Now we're not just a threat down low. We can shoot it, too."
The Spartans can play defense, too. They held Model to four points during a 15-minute stretch that bridged the first and second halves.
"We pride ourselves on taking away the other team's best players," Sutton said. "I know how good (Hayley) Hunt and (Abby) Vicars are, and to be able to shut them down is a credit to the girls."
Hunt was 2-for-17 from the field and had seven points. Vicars was 1-for-9 and had three points. Mallory Smith led Model with 10 points.