After Henry Clay scored the last four points to win the first set, and after Paul Dunbar scored the last nine points of the second set to even the match, the third set was anticlimactic.
Henry Clay scored the first four points, never trailed, and defeated Dunbar to claim the 41st District volleyball title Wednesday night at Tates Creek. The scores were 26-24, 22-25, 25-16.
Both teams will compete in the 11th Region Tournament next week at Madison Central. Henry Clay is the defending region champion and state semifinalist.
"We're a third-game finisher," the Blue Devils' Shelley Besten said. "We came out too slow in the second game. We know that's one of our weaker points. A lot of times, we take it to three games, and we have the confidence to pull it out.
"We needed to get the first couple of points and try to finish them off."
After taking the lead, Henry Clay (30-11) used a 5-0 run to build a 10-5 edge and steadily pulled away. The Devils' largest advantage was 11 points. The Bulldogs (24-14) fought off two match points before losing.
Henry Clay's MacKenzie Newby said, "The second game got to us. We hustled more in the third game and made the plays we needed. We didn't let mistakes get to us."
The opening sets were nail-biters.
The teams split during the regular season, and Dunbar jumped out to an early lead.
The Devils made their move, trailing 23-20. A net serve and a kill by Sarah Stromberg got them within one, but Dunbar reached match point.
Henry Clay got two kills from Mikayla Reese, and the Bulldogs were unable to return a deep serve in between.
Henry Clay's Kate Stromberg tipped the final point over the net, and Dunbar couldn't respond.
The Bulldogs had the strong finish in the second set. Henry Clay led 21-14 before being outscored 11-1 the rest of the set.
Kelly Cole served up the last nine points while the Devils committed several errors.
"We never let down," Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan said. "It showed in the second game when we were behind by nine and came back.
"I thought the momentum would carry over. We got down (in the third set) and that took the momentum out of it. I never felt the game was over until we finally got down too much."
Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe said, "We can't be losing (nine-point) leads, but Dunbar is a good city rival. We didn't play well across the board, but we picked each other up. It was a good team win."
Grupe would like to agree with his players and look at the Devils as a third-set success.
"If we relax and play, we do a good job," he said. "When we worry about mistakes, we make mistakes."
Bryan Station wins 42nd
Bryan Station defeated Madison Central in two sets Wednesday night to win the 42nd District championship match at Berea.
The Defenders scored a narrow 29-27 victory in the first set before clinching the title with a 25-19 win in the second.
Both teams will go on to next week's 11th Region Tournament at Madison Central.