Southwest Louisiana Homeschool Athletics has been dominating the ACEL for years, and Faith Training had its shot to claim the trophy.
The Lady Patriots had their chances but could not come away with the win, falling to the Lady Knights 36-35 in overtime Saturday at home in the ACEL State Championship.
"We had three freshmen and two juniors, and next year, we return seven of our top eight," FTCA head coach Walter Young said. "The experience that we gained this year and this tournament will be big for us going into next season.
"It was 32 minutes of intense basketball. When we were down, we competed, and when we were up, we competed. The only thing that could make it more fun is if I had two more points."
Earlier in the afternoon, the FTCA junior varsity team won a state championship with some of the players playing in the varsity contest. Despite playing just two hours earlier, the Lady Patriots played full of energy to hang with SWLA.
The two teams battled for more than 31 minutes, and with 33 seconds left on the clock, FTCA guard Tinsley Blakeney hit a 17-foot jumper to give her team a 2-point lead.
"For them to be so young and keep going at it after playing 24 minutes of JV earlier, it shows the heart that they have," Young said. "When we need a bucket, Tinsley is usually our mismatch. If they play a big on her, she goes around. If they play a small, she goes up and over."
However, SWLA got the ball to the league's MVP – Emma Marler – and she found an open teammate under the basket as the buzzer to force overtime.
"I thought at times that we did OK," Young said about his team’s defense on Marler. "The problems happened when we got into foul trouble. We wanted to cut off the backside, and it wasn't getting accomplished. When she penetrated, our center alone should have contested the shots and let everyone else rebound."
Trailing by 1 with under 10 seconds to play in the extra period, Blakeney came up with a steal and found Sara Boucher open up the court. Boucher let it fly from half court as time expired, but the ball hit the back and front of the rim and rolled out as the Lady Knights held on to the win.
"I was trying to get the girls attention with about 15 seconds left to foul, but we couldn't," Young said. "Luckily, Tinsley ripped the ball from one of the girls and got it to Sara. When she let go of it, I thought 'man, that's close.' When it hit the rim and rattled out, I was disappointed, but so proud of the way they battled, to be that close after six years of never being in the ball game."
Blakeney led FTCA with 18 points, and Keira Henry added 8.