Coach Jack Purtell climbed the ladder, snipped the last strand of the net and held the souvenir as high as he could as seemingly the entire suburb of Reynoldsburg crowded the court.
He didn't say a word amid the din, but his expression said it all. This one was for the Raiders fans for sticking with the team during the hard times.
Reynoldsburg had only two baskets in the first half but played an almost flawless second half behind seniors T'Shera Lucas, Aryelle Covington and Kenyell Goodson to upset top-ranked Pickerington North 45-34 in a Division I regional championship game before 2,480 last night in Otterbein's Rike Center.
The Raiders, who will play in their first state tournament, had never defeated Pickerington North or Pickerington Central in girls basketball.
"That's the premier program in Ohio over there as far as I'm concerned," Purtell said. "We didn't talk a whole lot about not having beaten them. Both games (in the regular season) were decided late."
Reynoldsburg trailed 13-11 at the half.
"We didn't play well in the first half, but we decided to make it a positive by saying we had a chance to win," Purtell said. "This is so important for Reynoldsburg. This city needed something good like this to happen. I'm excited for our fans."
Pickerington North (24-2) won both of the earlier meetings, but the first was decided by nine points in overtime and the second by four.
Covington said she and her teammates were perturbed after getting text messages reminding them of their failures.
"We wanted to make history," she said. "We played with anger. After we beat Brookhaven for the district championship, we decided that no one was going to beat us."
Covington, a 5-foot-10 forward, was subpar in a victory over Gahanna in the regional semifinal and vowed to make up for it. She was bullish underneath the basket with 15 points and five rebounds and made all eight of her free throws in the fourth quarter.
The game turned early in the third quarter when Lucas made put-backs on consecutive possessions and Goodson had a three-point play on a drive to the basket to give the Raiders (21-5) an 18-13 lead.
"We had to do this," said Lucas, who had eight points, 13 rebounds, one block and one steal. "We had to get this win for Coach and my dad (assistant Tony Lucas). This game was so huge for us."
The play in the first half was ragged. The teams combined for 21 turnovers and 15 fouls.
The Panthers missed a slew of open shots within 10 feet of the basket. They shot 28.6 percent for the game.
"The key to the game for us was the first half," Pickerington North coach Dave Butcher said. "We led by two points, and it could have been 15. We made unforced mistakes and didn't make our foul shots.
"Give Reynoldsburg credit. I was afraid of Reynoldsburg because they get so many easy baskets."