Tod Windlan finished snipping the nylon Saturday and grabbed a last piece of net from the rim when a collection of children swarmed the bottom of the ladder.
Each wanted their own piece of Hamilton Heights High School girls basketball history and the second-year Huskies coach embraced the moment. Windlan climbed the ladder again and cut several smaller pieces, making sure everyone who wanted to, could be a part of a championship.
For the first time, Class 3A No. 2 Hamilton Heights will compete in the girls basketball state finals, defeating fourth-ranked Benton Central 69-58 in the Crown Point Semistate.
"I wasn't about to lose this game," said junior guard Haley Cook, who provided 11 points in a momentum-swinging third quarter. "We've never been to state before, or semistate, and I just knew I had to pull through and I am so proud of our team."
The Huskies (23-2) will play No. 6 Mount Vernon (22-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute for the 3A state championship. Hamilton Heights beat Mt. Vernon 70-61 on Nov. 21.
Cook's seven points in a 10-second span in the third quarter provided game-changing momentum. She made a 3-pointer, then scored a 3 off a turnover while getting fouled to put the Huskies up 46-34.
"It was a huge momentum killer," said Benton Central senior Cassidy Deno, who matched teammate Caitlyn Tolen with a game-high 24 points. "That was the turning point of the game."
For the second weekend in a row, the Huskies fell behind by double-digits early, only to respond with its smaller, yet more athletic team.
After falling behind 18-6, Caitlin Matchett's 3 and a late basket by Evansville recruit Dakota Weatherford brought Hamilton Heights within 18-11 at the end of the first quarter and the Huskies outscored Benton Central 23-11 in the second quarter.
"Clark Kellogg uses that spurtability phrase quite a bit and that's what we've got," Windlan said. "We can hit you with an 8-0 or 10-0 run in about a minute.
"When that happens, it is hard to defend. I've been on the other end of it and I don't like it, but it is great to have that in your arsenal."
Weatherford matched Cook with a team-high 22 points and junior Kiley Walters added 12. Hamilton Heights' speed, athleticism and hot shooting. Hamilton Heights forced the Bison (22-4) into 18 turnovers and made 8 of 14 3-pointers, building an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.