Having had the game against Westfield in hand, or so it appeared with a 46-36 lead and only three minutes left to play, T.C. Williams not only had a regional final game on the horizon but a state championship berth as well.
Just over a minute later, though, the Titans saw their once-comfortable 10-point lead pared down to a slender four-point margin following a quick 8-2 Westfield run.
True to form, though, the Titans ultimately prevailed, scoring seven points in the games final minute knocking down five of six free throws along the way to beat the Spartans 55-44 in the Friday nights second North Region semifinal.
Only then, with the game truly won and their place in the state tournament secure, were the T.C. players allowed to eat cake.
What looked like the biggest, sweetest slice of all went to the games biggest performer, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.
Ruffin-Pratt, the Northern Region Player of the Year, dominated from one end of the court to the other with 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks.
She is so long and can elevate over people, that when they come to the lane, she denies it almost every other time, or every time, T.C. Williams coach Cavanaugh Hagen said.
And with the game and state tournament aspirations on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Titans coach looked to her teams star and leader, Ruffin-Pratt, who wanted a crack at the regional title as much as anyone in the gym.
I was trying to leave it all out there on the court tonight, if we were going to come out with the victory we had to leave it all on the court, Ruffin-Pratt said.
She said, Coach, I havent gotten [a regional championship yet], Hagen said. And I said with 2:30 left, Take us to states, and right after that she got the steal and the layup. When she picks it up, the whole team does.
Westfield had led 13-11 after the first quarter, but the Titans bounced back in the second quarter, scoring 19 points en route to a 30-23 halftime lead.
As the tension grew and the Titans lead dwindled to four points in the games final period, it became clear that the two teams work at the free throw line was a difference-maker. T.C. shot 84.2 percent (16-19) from the line while the Spartans made only 35 percent (7-20) of their opportunities.
We dug down and knocked down some crucial free throws to keep extending the lead, Hagen said. We work on that every day and it paid off.
Shelby Romine and Mary Barondess led Westfield with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Monica Fikes added 10 points for T.C. Williams.