The Hawthorne Hornets offense was stuck in the mud for the first three quarters of Thursday night's Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinal against the Trenton Tigers.
The Hornets (16-5) only had 27 points, and Trenton extended the lead to as much as eight points early in the final period.
But Trenton's senior leader Bri Becker committed her fifth foul with 4:25 left and that changed the game and maybe the season for Hawthorne.
The Hornets outscored Trenton 12-2 over the final three and a half minutes to rally Hawthorne to a 43-39 win on the road.
"We grinded it out tonight," Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram said. "It was a great crowd and atmosphere. I don't think 1A basketball gets enough credit but it's good basketball and worth watching."
Trenton (17-10) started the game with a 9-2 run, but the Hornets answered with 12 straight points to lead 14-9 early in the second period.
Becker, who is Trenton's leader in rebounds, assists, and steals and second in scoring, picked up her third foul with five minutes to go before halftime.
But Trenton held their own, led by senior Ta'tyiana Jackson's six points and four points from senior Jordan Douglas, and the Tigers took an 18-16 lead into the halftime break.
In the second half, Hawthorne got a major boost from sophomore Lakijah Brown, who scored 13 points after a scoreless first half and also disrupted the Trenton offense with key steals.
"She needed to put the first half out of her head and come back in the second half, and that's what she did," Ingram said. "She's a tough player and she changed her approach in the second half."
But Trenton continued to hold on to the lead, and extended it to as much as eight points at 32-24 before Hawthorne closed out the third quarter with three quick points.
Trenton continued to lead until Becker fouled out.
"We knew we needed to slow #2 (Becker) down," Ingram said. "We knew she could make things happen with the extra pass and scoring, so I told our girls to take the charge if possible."
After Becker fouled out, Douglas knocked down a three-pointer to extend the Trenton lead to 37-31 with 3:40 left. But the Hornets then turned up the with Brown hounding the Tigers offense.
And when Douglas fouled out with 2:25 to go, suddenly Trenton (17-10) was without their two leading scorers.
Brown hit a basket and four free throws and Kentavia Hagins scored as well as Hawthorne (16-5) took the lead for good.
Brown was the only Hawthorne player in double figures with 13 points, with eight points in the final quarter. Hagins, Jaz'lyn Jackson, and Saideriel Oliver added eight points apiece.
For Trenton coach Bryant Frye, it's a tough way to go out as he is retiring as the girls basketball coach of the Tigers. But he enjoyed coaching in a game like this.
"What about the atmosphere," Frye said. "I wish basketball was like that more often. That was probably one of the most intense atmospheres I've had since I played Wildwood in 1996 for the state title."
Douglas led the Tigers with 11 points, Becker and Jackson added 10 points, and another senior Alexis Hill chipped in eight points. But those were the only players to score for Trenton.
"If we had played with the effort tonight defensively we did all season we would have only lost one or two games," Frye said. "I really think we win the game if Bri doesn't foul out."
Frye exits after eights seasons as Trenton coach with three Final Four appearances, a state championship in 2019 and state runner-up finish in 2016, and seven straight district titles with 90 consecutive district wins.
Meanwhile, Ingram and his Hornets, who won the state title in 2020 and just missed out on a repeat a year ago, move on to play Wildwood next Tuesday in the 1A-Region 4 final, with the winner moving on to the 1A final four in Lakeland.
Wildwood beat the Hornets 46-32 in the 1A District 8 final, sending Hawthorne on the road for the playoffs. Ingram expects his team to be ready this time around.
"We will have Jazz (Jackson) this time around," Ingram said. "She had an ankle injury and she didn't play against Wildwood. When she's on the floor she's a bright light for our program, a great passer and rebounder as well."