Moments after helping her team cap off a 49-44 Class B championship win over Hammon at State Fair Arena on Saturday, Lomega junior Ashley LaGasse was clinging to the gold ball.
She was now part of the family.
Her sister, Lauren, won two championships. Her mother, then Kanae Price, won one. Her uncle, Wesley, also won a gold ball.
“It feels like I'm part of the tradition now,” LaGasse said. “It's just so great.”
LaGasse had plenty to do with it, scoring 25 points as Lomega bounced back from an early deficit to take the title.
The win gives Lomega's girls 11 state titles, including Omega's 1955 title, tying Byng for the most in state history.
For Lomega coach Kevin Lewallen, who led the Raiders to their 2007 and 2008 titles, this one was different.
“I think this one might be better,” he said. “We knew we were going to be really good in 2007 and then in 2008, with almost everybody coming back, it was the same thing. This year, we were just hoping to make it here when the season started. We weren't even thinking about winning it.”
But Lomega (30-1) won it all against Hammon by withstanding an early attack and hitting its free throws down the stretch.
Hammon (29-3) scored the game's first 11 points.
“One of the first things my dad said when we were talking about the game was, ‘Don't let them jump out on you,'” Lewallen said. “And sure enough, we did.”
In a timeout, Lewallen settled his team's nerves.
“We always come back when we're down like that,” LaGasse said.
Lewallen's encouragement didn't pay off immediately.
The Raiders trailed by 11 early in the second quarter, 22-11, but they scored the final eight points of the first half to make it a game again.
Lomega took its first lead on Hailey Duffy's basket with less than three minutes left in the third.
Twice in the fourth, LaGasse hit 3-pointers to put Lomega back in front.
Down the stretch, LaGasse and Taylor Mendell made their free throws to help keep Lomega ahead.
“It wasn't bad,” LaGasse said of her nerves as she took the line in the closing moments. “I knew Taylor had hit hers and I was just acting like they were any other free throws.”
Then she admitted that they were far from ordinary — they were going to help make her a state champion.
“Ever since I was in first grade and saw my mom on that banner, I knew this is what I wanted,” LaGasse said.