SISSONVILLE, W.Va. - In a matter of seconds, Tolsia's Savannah Winnett went from almost throwing up to pure elation.
In the end, she turned out to be the hero for the Rebels.
Winnett tied the game after making three foul shots with 56 seconds left, and then sank the game-winning rebound follow off at the buzzer to give Tolsia (18-3) a thrilling 45-43 victory at Sissonville in girls high school basketball Monday.
The Rebel junior scored a game-high 15 points and her heroics capped a wild finish that saw the Indians (14-6) lead by three with less than a minute to play when Winnett was fouled shooting a 3-point attempt. She converted all three to tie the game at 42-42.
Sissonville's Karli Pinkerton was fouled with 8.7 seconds to play and converted the second free throw attempt. Tolsia didn't call a timeout but instead rushed up the court, and Jordan Presley was fouled with 3.4 seconds left.
Presley, a senior, made the first free throw of the one- plus-one to tie the game but missed the second. Tolsia's Jamie Maynard grabbed the rebound and missed the follow, but Winnett rebounded Maynard's miss, and her follow hit the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded, and fell in.
"I was literally about to puke on the free throws," Winnett said. "I knew I had to make all free throws. I was pretty nervous. I was shaking bad. On the putback, coach told me to go for the rebound no matter what. I was pretty ecstatic and really happy."
Tolsia Coach Rick Morrone indicated the wild finish was all about effort.
"At the end of the game, I think it was the will to win," Morrone said. "We can be beaten, but we're not going to be defeated. We showed some heart. Savannah had a big stick back. That last play was all about heart."
The win over No. 10 Sissonville was much more than just a normal victory for Tolsia. It gave the Rebels the Cardinal Conference title, something Morrone took particular pleasure in celebrating.
"This is our first-ever conference championship tonight," Morrone said. "I'm really proud of the girls. That's something they can always remember. We have beaten everybody in our conference."
Despite winning the conference title, Tolsia still isn't ranked in Class AA, giving the Rebels added motivation the rest of the season.
"To sit and think people don't see that, the kids do and other people, it just fuels the fire," Morrone said. "We know what we are all about. We have lost three games to three triple-A teams. I'm not campaigning. Our goals are still ahead of us."
Winnett said the team relishes being overlooked.
"We've always been the underdog," Winnett said. "We kind of like the challenge of being not ranked. Then we can prove to people that we do deserve it and should be. That's our goal."
It was a tough defeat for Sissonville, which led 23-14 at halftime. The Indians still led by five points with less than 2 minutes left in the game.
Sissonville's top three players - Madison Jones, Pinkerton, and Brooke Reed - are all freshman. Tolsia forced the Indians into 16 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter with most coming down the stretch.
Sissonville Coach Rich Skeen is hoping his youthful team can take the loss as a learning experience heading into next week's sectionals.
"It's freshmen," Sissonville Coach Rich Skeen said. "We live and die with them. I think they panicked a little bit tonight. You hate to lose but it will help us for next week. They are really good at looking at the tape and learning from it."
Jones, who averages a team best 17.2 points per game, was held to just 11. Pinkerton added 13 points and six assists, while Reed, the least heralded of the three, grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
"Brooke is a rebounding machine," Skeen said. "She has had four games with 15, and another with 13. She has a knack of the ball. She was big for us tonight."
Tolsia's leading scorer on the season, Krista Maynard, battled through a leg injury to score 11 points and grab 11 rebounds for the Rebels.
TOLSIA 45, SISSONVILLE 43
Tolsia (18-3) FG 3FG FT Points
Krista Maynard 4-13 1-6 2-2 11
Savannah Winnett 5-17 1-2 4-5 15
Kerrie Lahoda 0-1 0-1 0-0 0