As a whole, the Vienna Regional had more twists, turns and drama than an episode of Days Of Our Lives.
And in Thursday night's championship with Harrisburg and Anna-Jonesboro the cliff hanger reached its apex as both went to overtime, where the Bulldogs went 5-of-7 from the foul line and Harrisburg (29-4) won its fourth straight title with a 54-52 overtime win against A-J.
Tied at 47-all in the OT period, Harrisburg's Lydia Miller grabbed the rebound on a missed free throw attempt by Steam Black and got the putback for the three-point play and give the Bulldogs the 15th lead change of the game at 50-47.
Four more Essence Sanders free throws pushed the lead to 54-50 with 1:13 to play and a bucket by A-J's Mikayla Bundren got the Wildcats go with in two with less than a minute to play.
Anna-Jonesboro (22-11) had a couple of looks in the last minute, but we're able to come up with a bucket.
Free throws could have been the hero or villain for Harrisburg, but ultimately, it's what saved them.
Ironically, the two teams played each other In last years regional championship at Wayne City where deja vu set for Harrisburg head coach Jake Stewart as his team went 24-for-35 from the charity stripe in the game and was 22-of-31 from the foul line in the second half. The Bulldogs finished the game with just seven field goals, this after trailing 20-16 at halftime and 34-33 after three quarters.
"You know how it is - in a regional championship game, you have to make free throws down the stretch. I didn't know we shot that and that's probably the best we've shot from the free throw line all season long. I'm proud of the girls for stepping up and taking their time and getting the job done," Stewart said.
"It's the exact same thing tonight (referencing last years matchup against A-J at Wayne City) It came down to us having to get stops at the end and us having to make a play and make a free throw. Last year was Karsyn Davis and this year was Essence Sanders so I'm proud of E for stepping up. She had a lot of good free throws for us tonight."
Sanders was 9-of-10 from the line and had 11 points.
Stewart complimented his senior for stepping up and showing out when the game was on the line.
"She's a senior, she's a two-year starter, she was in this game last year and she started and played and got minutes as a sophomore on a 31-1 team. She's one of our leaders and one of our captains and that's what a senior does."
Harrisburg was led in scoring by a game-high 17 points from Miller, while Lauren McDaniel, who was vital for Harrisburg in the first half, finished with 13 points.
Summer Sanders added eight points and Stream Black scored six points, including a monster 3-pointer in the fourth that gave the 'Dogs a 40-37 lead with 5:43 to play, before A-J closed the game out on a 10-7 run, including a pair of free throws from Kristin Edmonds with 39 seconds to play and knot the game at 47.
Edmonds had a team-high 15 for the Wildcats.
Lost in the celebration was the fact that Stewart reached a personal milestone, picking up win No. 200.
It wasn't lost on the ninth-year coach, who afterwards, praised those who have helped him get to where he is at.
"It is what it is," Stewart said humbly. "It goes back to a lot of good people in our program and a lot of good people in my life that has helped me along the way. It's not just me, it's for all of us.
Harrisburg - who played in its 8th straight regional championship - has now won 5 under Stewart.
The Bulldogs will square off against Nashville Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Carterville Sectional.
Like A-J, Harrisburg and the Hornets are no stranger to each other. They've met the last three years in the postseason. It all started three years ago at Johnston City Sectional and then two years ago at Hamilton County and ast year at Red Bud.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.