Caitlyn O’Neal hit 8 of 9 free throws in the final quarter, and her one miss was rebounded by Daniel with 2:16 left in the game. The Panthers were able to keep possession and Caitlyn O’Neal was fouled again 22 seconds later, hitting both free throws for a 34-24 lead.
After Norwell cut the lead to 36-26 with two free throws by Kaylee Roller with 1:05 left, Caitlyn O’Neal hit two more freebies with 35 seconds left to push the margin back up to a dozen. Norwell had a brief flurry of five points on a 3 by Mackenzie Sawyer and two free throws from Kaylee Strunk but that 38-31 score was as close as it got in the final minutes. Western got one more freebie from Black and two more from Caitlyn O’Neal in the final 16 seconds.
“I knew we had it won [in the final minute] and we were on the foul line shooting free throws,” Caitlyn O’Neal said. “When I was on the line shooting free throws, I knew that we’d won and it was hard for me to keep it together because I was so happy. I knew that we’d won and we were going to state.”
Western will be making its first state finals appearance. Evansville Mater Dei won Class 2A state titles in 2012 and ‘13, beating Eastern 62-42 in last year’s title game.