Maggie Peacock remembers sitting in the press conference after Lipan’s state championship game last year.
The senior forward recalls struggling to answer questions through tears following the team’s loss to Nazareth with a silver medal hanging around her.
Thursday morning, she found herself at the podium again answering questions through tears, but this time with Lipan’s (30-3) second state championship after a 44-39 win over Martin’s Mill (28-5) in the 2A finals.
“We did not want to feel that gut-wrenching feeling again so that’s what kind of motivated us to come here again,” Peacock said. “I’m crying now but it’s tears of joy this time.”
In their first year since going up a classification, the Lady Indians had to outlast one of the premier 2A programs in Martin’s Mill, a program fresh off a run in which it strung together over 100 consecutive wins over three seasons and looked to add its seventh title.
In a defensive battle, Lipan had the edge for much of the first half, but Martin’s Mill never let the deficit get out of reach. Midway through the third period, that appeared to change.
Lipan senior Chelsea Lott shut down a 2-on-1 fast break scenario and ran the floor to get a bucket on the other end and pushed the Lady Indians’ lead to 11. It was their biggest of the game at that point. The margin grew to as much as 14 before the Lady Mustangs made one last push.
In the midst of a 9-0 run with under three minutes to play, Martin’s Mill’s Jada Celsur turned the ball over, but quickly raced back to steal it and regain possession. The star junior guard then took contact in the lane and converted a three-point play to make it a four-point game.
“We just had to not pay attention to the scoreboard or the time, we just had to take it one possession at a time,” Celsur said.
Following a timeout from Lipan head coach Amber Branson, the Lady Indians regained composure on offense and took valuable time off the clock thanks to a patient refocus on offense. Lott and Taylor Branson connected on clutch free throws to ice the victory.
“We were making them play defense for only 10 seconds there and we were having to go back and get stops,” Branson said. “We just tried to tell them that we had to take as much time off the clock, get great shots and layups and the clock was on our side.”
Lott received a hug from Peacock as she drained the first of two free throws that pushed Lipan’s lead to two possessions with just two ticks left. Both were key returners from the runner-up team a year ago.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have both sides, boys and girls, be competitive every year and it’s fun,” Branson said.
Lott was named the game’s MVP with 18 points. Celsur finished with a game-high 21.