The Van Buren County Lady Eagles and the Sale Creek Lady Panthers split their regular-games with both teams winning at home.
The Lady Eagles now have a 2-1 advantage after beating the Lady Panthers on Monday night for the District 6-A championship.
Van Buren improved to 20-9 with the 51-48 victory in a game that was close the entire way.
"That was fun one to watch," suggested Van Buren coach Amy Russell after a post-game talk with her girls.
"These girls have worked hard all season and I feel like they earned it tonight.
Our motto has been "Refuse To Lose" and we took it to heart tonight.
"We knew we were at a disadvantage playing on their home floor, but I just told our girls that we had to stay focused mentally and that the team making the fewest mistakes would most likely win the game.
"They did all we asked as we played smart basketball. We can enjoy this tonight, but we'll be back in the gym tomorrow as we get ready for Boyd-Buchanan on Friday," Russell added with a smile.
Sale Creek scored the first seven points of the game, but Van Buren answered with a dozen straight and the Lady Eagles were up 12-11 at the first break.
Sale Creek's Erin Hill scored on a putback to start the second stanza as the Lady Panthers led 13-12, but the Lady Eagles scored six straight and had the upper hand until Krissy Hodge sank a short bank shot in the final minute to give the hostesses a 26-25 lead.
Back-to-back buckets from Shelby Christian and Allison McCoy allowed the visitors from Spencer to take a 29-26 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
Van Buren extended its lead to 34-26 to start the second half before Hill sank back-to-back 3s and Alexis Wolff added another as Sale Creek had the upper hand at 35-34 with one quarter remaining.
Freshman Lakelyn Bouldin, who was named tournament MVP after scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, nailed a 15-footer as the Lady Eagles regained the lead to start the final stanza while four straight 3s allowed Van Buren to lead 48-42 with just over three minutes remaining.
Sale Creek never regained the lead, but back-to-back putbacks by Megan Storey and Hill trimmed the difference to 50-48 with 48 seconds to play.
Lacy Hankins had a chance to put the game out of reach as she went to the charity stripe for a one-and-one with 15.7 seconds to play. She sank the first before missing the second, giving the Lady Panthers one final chance to tie the game.
Wolff missed from the corner while Hill misfired from the key at the end as that critical final shot simply would not fall as the Lady Eagles hung on for their most important win of the season up to this point.
"Van Buren backed off and gave us plenty of open looks, but we just couldn't make them," said Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill after her team's 17-game winning streak had been snapped.
"Our strength is inside, but Van Buren did a good job of shutting that down and we just couldn't hit the easy shots. They took care of business, but we're not finished and the season is not over. Now we have to rebound and get ready for CSAS," Hill added.
Ironically, the Lady Eagles were the last team to beat Sale Creek back on Jan. 5.
While Bouldin was the offensive leader for Van Buren, teammate Tiffany Grissom followed with 10 points while Christian added eight.
Hill and Wolff were tops for Sale Creek with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Hodge finished with eight.
Hill grabbed 10 rebounds as Sale Creek had a 31-27 advantage on the boards. Mikayla Crowder had seven while Storey finished with five.
PAIGE CARTER SCORED 26 points to lead the Whitwell Lady Tigers to a 68-25 win over Richard Hardy in the consolation game.
The Lady Tigers had a 35-21 lead at intermission, but the Lady Hawks could only add four more points in the second half. A 29-4 advantage in the third quarter put the mercy rule into effect and the final eight minutes passed with only four more points being scored.
Carter led that third-quarter surge with 16 of her 26 points. Tamika Gholston was also in double figures for Whitwell with 11 while Kasie Hedrick was next with seven.
Katie Rogers was tops for Richard Hardy with 10 points while Whitney Phillips finished with nine.
Whitwell improves to 23-8 with the victory.
Van Buren Co. 12 17 5 17 -- 51
Sale Creek 11 15 9 13 -- 48
VAN BUREN CO. (51) -- Hankins 4, Grissom 10, Christian 8, Hitchcock 5, Bouldin 20, Cole, McCoy 4.
SALE CREEK (48) -- Hill 15, Hodge 8, Price 2, Wolff 12, Crowder 4, Storey 4, Welch, Hixson 3.
3-POINT GOALS: Van Buren Co. 7 (Grissom 3, Hitchcock 2, Bouldin 2); Sale Creek 7 (Hill 3, Wolff 4).
Richard Hardy 8 13 4 0 -- 25
Whitwell 21 14 29 4 -- 68
RICHARD HARDY (25) -- Case 4, Billingsley, Rogers 10, Braden 2, Provins, Phillips 9, Lane, Jordan.
WHITWELL (68) -- Gholston 11, Smith 2, Bennington 4, Allerten 4, Coppinger 4, Carter 26, Ranius, Kilgore 4, Hedrick 7, Andregg 2, Joslyn 2, Fuefer, Blair, Miller, Griffith.
3-POINT GOALS: Richard Hardy (Rogers 2, Phillips); Whitwell 4 (Gholston, Carter 3).
Carly Lane (Richard Hardy); Paige Carter (Whitwell); Erin Hill, Megan Storey (Sale Creek); Tiffany Grissom, Allison McCoy, Shelene Hitchcock, Lakelyn Bouldin -- MVP (Van Buren Co.)
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)