Jake Stewart doesn't have a crystal ball or pretend to see into the future, but when the meeting was set earlier in the week that his Harrisburg girls' basketball team was going to face Anna-Jonesboro for the 2A Regional crown at Wayne City, the head coach knew then he was in for a war.
Thursday night's title tilt between the 'Cats and 'Dogs was a battle that went down to the wire, but also won that saw Harrisburg win it's third straight regional with a 35-34 win.
It's the fourth regional championship for Stewart, who has a head coach has had Harrisburg in seven regional title games in the last eight years.
This one - despite some drama down the stretch - after the Bulldogs blew a 14-point lead was his most special.
"This is our third regional title and my fourth so I live in the moment and I tell the girls to live in the moment," Stewart said. "This is the sweetest one we've had because we're still playing and at this time of the year, that's all you can ask for - a little bit more time with your seniors."
If it wasn't for one of his seniors, Harrisburg may not still not be playing.
Senior forward Karsyn Davis hit two clutch and critical free throws with 7.2 seconds to play essentially won the game for Harrisburg.
What transpired before that, nearly did the 'Dogs in.
Holding a 32-29 lead with 2:39 to play, Madeline Rider missed the front end of a 1-1, followed by the same from Brooke Meylor and Essence Sanders. Then with 32.1 to go, Meylor - in the double bonus - made one of two free throws, while Sanders missed another pair.
Davis and Stewart both admitted that Harrisburg doesn't fare well from the free throw line, but made them when they mattered most.
" Man, it's almost what lost it for us there," Davis said. "We haven't been shooting free throws very well lately. We've been focusing on them in practice and there is a little bit of nerves and a little bit of inexperience. We have a few girls that have never really been here in this spot before but they did a very fantastic job with getting the job done. It worked in the end. I think that we just settled down and we ran our offense. Coach Stewart has been working with us on that in practice. We've been focusing on running our offense and keeping leads. We've won quite a bit of leads this season. We've really been focusing on that and I think that we were just ready and knew they were going to come back. "
Anna-Jonesboro, who trailed 28-14 midway through the third quarter, went on a 6-0 run to close out the third and got to within eight at 28-20.
Kristin Edmonds banged home a pair of 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter and her last, with 4:57 to play, cut the lead to three at 32-29.
Wildcats head coach Matt Denny credited his girls' determination to never give up and stay in the fight.
"We got down a little bit in the first half and we couldn't buy a bucket. It wasn't just 3's but layups and buckets. Harrisburg is a very good team. We came back in the second half and we got down 14 in the third. We didn't quit. I told my girls that's what we hang our hat on. We got down and came back and ended up one.
"On nights like tonight, if you play defense then it'll keep you in the game. We did play defense and we grinded. We want to be physical and we want them to know that we're there and we did. We turned them over several times. It's a tough trip but hats off to Harrisburg, Jake, and their program - they did a good job."
Harrisburg shot 12-for-27 from the field in the game for 44 percent, finished 10-of-21 from the foul line and were led by a pair of 11-point performances from Davis and Rider.
Summer Sanders finished with four points, while Brooke Meylor tacked on three points. Essence Sanders, Alli Ferrell and Ivy Brown all had two points.
Anna-Jonesboro forced Harrisburg into 12 turnovers, while shooting 12-of-43 from the field for 27 percent. The Wildcats went 6-of-8 from the foul line, but were outrebounded 27-20.
A-J got 11 points from Anna Hess, while Edmonds scored seven points. Angel Helm finished with five points, while Jaley Watkins and Jacee Woodward each had four points, while Sydney Heath tacked on three points.
Harrisburg (28-5) will now play Nashville (winners of the Trico Regional) on Monday at 6 p.m. at Red Bud High School.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.