It was a strange scenario since their team had the lead and seemed to be on its way to the Class 6A state girls basketball championship.
Approximately 10 seconds later, when sophomore Kayla Melson knocked down a free throw to give the Poets an eight-point cushion, the crowd seated behind the Lanier bench rose almost in unison.
They knew they had it. Finally.
Lanier earned the first girls state basketball title in school history, downing Davidson 69-59 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. The Poets (25-9) won 12 of their last 13 games on the way to the title.
“It’s been a long hard road, but we finally made it,” Lanier coach Steve Holloway said. “We know how hard it is to get here, but I love these girls and what they did.”
The Poets earned the crown the hard way, beating the top-ranked team in the state in Vestavia Hills on Thursday in the state semifinals. They followed that by beating the No. 7 Warriors on Saturday.
“Beating Vestavia was tough, but this one got to us a little bit,” said Monique Gaston, one of eight seniors on the Lanier squad. “The crowd almost looked stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I am still a little in shock.”
The Poets won despite not being ranked among the top teams all season. It’s the first time they’ve played for a state girls championship since 1983.
Along with the victories over Vestavia Hills and Davidson, Sidney Lanier defeated area rivals Selma and Jefferson Davis high schools in the postseason, earning a little more respect along the way.
“No one gave us a chance,” Melson said. “We knew when to play a little harder and get a little stronger.”
That’s what caught the attention of Johnnie Tolbert, a teacher and volleyball coach at Lanier who sat in the stands and watched the win.
“This is great for the other athletes at Lanier,” she said. “These girls are writing the history book for our school. This says a lot for our program.”
Tolbert sat with Caraly Sumners, a Spanish teacher at Lanier. Sumners said it was Lanier’s time to win it.
“It was hard-fought,” she said. “The girls really played well. This will be a proud day for Lanier High School. It was our time.”
It is the first state title of any kind for the school since the boys won the 2001 basketball championship. The new blue trophy will sit in the case alongside the vast number of prizes won in the storied tradition of the school.
But first, Holloway would like to enjoy it a while.
“It will take everything and more to take it away from me,” Holloway said. “I will sleep with it a few nights.”