It was a lot closer than Myrtle Beach's quarterfinal and semifinal victories, and likely even closer than the Seahawks themselves thought it would be.
But that only added exhilaration to the gamut of joyous emotions the Seahawks experienced on the Colonial Life Arena court before collecting the state championship trophy.
Myrtle Beach, the top-ranked team in Class AAA essentially the entire season, was pushed to the limit by Daniel in the Class AAA girls state championship game Saturday, but pulled out a 64-59 win in overtime to claim the program's fifth state title.
"It was an intense game," Seahawks sophomore guard Khadijah Sessions said. "What it came down to makes you want to be so hyped after a game like this."
The Seahawks (29-1) had a pair of chances to win the game at the end of regulation, but Sessions missed a contested runner in the lane in the waning seconds and D.J. Hunter missed a putback in traffic. Danielle Cooper's successful putback came a fraction of a second after the buzzer.
The game was tied at 57 a minute into the four-minute overtime period after free throws by Sessions and Cooper and an inside basket by Carly Hoover of Daniel (24-3). Tanisha Brown, a freshman, hit consecutive jumpers for Myrtle Beach to twice break ties, and her second basket put the Seahawks up for good, 61-59. The jumpers came from the free throw line in the middle of a Daniel 2-3 zone that give the Seahawks fits all game.
"I normally look for teammates and want to get assists more than I score, but after I started getting turnovers from trying to pass the ball, my teammates told me to score the ball, so I just went ahead and scored," said Brown, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. "We haven't had that much competition all year, but when we went into overtime we just knew we would step up to the challenge I dreamed about this. I knew this would happen this year and I'm so happy."
After a Daniel turnover on a long pass attempt, Sessions dribbled the ball around chasing Daniel defenders before being fouled with 17 seconds remaining and made both free throws to give the Seahawks a four-point lead.
"I know at the end of the day I had to make a play for my team, and make free throws and come to the line and just knock them down," said Sessions, who scored a game-high 24 points and added six assists, five steals and five blocks.
"At the end of regulation we had our opportunities and we let it slip away, and I was concerned about how the girls were going to react to that mentally," Kiper said. "... We didn't always hit our free throws and we missed a lot of bunnies there in the fourth quarter, but when it came down to it at the end we made defensive stops and Khadijah went to the line and knocked down free throws, and that's what you need to win state championships."
The Lions desperately missed senior point guard Sherece Smith, who hit a pair of free throws with 10.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game, after she fouled out early in overtime.
"That was the difference in the game," said Daniel coach Jody Powell. "If she's in there we have a chance, not necessarily only because of her skills, but everybody else thinks, 'Oh my gosh she's not here.' She's the leader ... and that's a lot to ask without the leader being out there."
It looked like the Seahawks might enjoy another rout, similar to their 53- and 39-point wins leading up to the state championship, when they raced out to a 15-2 lead, but the Lions closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run and the game remained close from that point on.
"To be down 15-2 in this venue with all these people, they could have cracked and they didn't," Powell said. "I knew they wouldn't because I know these girls, but they could have and there was potential for Myrtle Beach to just run away with that game. The fact we took them to overtime, I feel like we won. That's a great team. I can definitely say we're legitimately the No. 2 team in the state."
Myrtle Beach's last state title came over Daniel in 1997, and the Seahawks lost in the state title game two years ago.
MYRTLE BEACH (64) - Khadijah Sessions 24, Tanisha Brown 12, Danielle Cooper 11, Shatia Cole 6, D.J. Hunter 6, Keyaurna Wilson 5.
DANIEL (59) - Anicia Dotson 19, Carly Hoover 17, Sherece Smith 11, Katie Scmidt 6, Allison Droddy 6.
3-point goals: MB 1(Sessions); Daniel 3 (Schmidt 2, Dotson). Team fouls: MB 20, Daniel 18. Fouled out: Dotson (D), Smith (D). Technical fouls: None
Records : Myrtle Beach 29-1, Daniel 24-3.