The Chestatee High girls have taken what was expected to be a rebuilding season and turned it into another filled with postseason success.
In Friday's Class AAA playoff opener in Gainesville, the Lady War Eagles (19-10) used a key fourth-quarter 3-pointer by Emily Crain and some clutch free throw shooting to earn a 37-33 win against Gilmer.
It marks the third time that Chestatee has advanced to the second round of the playoffs since 2009, this time with no seniors on the roster.
"We're just trying to continue the tradition," Chestatee coach Web Daniel said. "We're trying to become one of the best girls teams in the state."
With the win, Chestatee faces Saturday's Troup/Riverwood winner on Tuesday, site and time to be determined.
"It feels so great to win this game," junior center Maegan Kenimer said. "We're all just so excited on this team.
"We struggled a little in the first half, but we pulled it together strong in the second half."
Leading 25-24 with only four minutes left to play, it was the sophomore Crain that drained the biggest basket of the night for Chestatee.
With the ball in Kenimer's hands underneath the basket, and drawing an aggressive double team from the Lady Bobcats, she kicked it back out to an open Crain, who drained the 3-pointer.
Crain's basket was big because it gave Chestatee its first two-possession lead since going up 7-2 midway through the first quarter on a basket by Danielle Stephens.
"I can't take any of the credit for making that shot," Crain said. "All the glory goes to God."
Crain would also go on to add a pair of free throws in the final minute to extend the Lady War Eagles' lead to 34-27, which would prove important as Gilmer's Bailey Charles and Britton Farlow both knocked down 3-pointers before the game ended.
Kenimer's effort down the stretch was equally clutch. She connected on 5 of 6 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and scored her team-high 10 points all from the free throw line.
The Lady War Eagles finished the game 20 of 31 from the free throw line. Gilmer (18-11) only took six shots from the free throw line.
Kenimer helped keep Chestatee in front by making all four of her free throw attempts early in the final period.
After making her first two attempts, Erin Clifford came away with a Lady War Eagles steal and passed immediately to Kenimer underneath the basket, where she drew the foul.
After Crain's 3 gave Chestatee a 28-24 lead with 3:57 left to play, the Lady War Eagles took a minute off the clock on its next possession with basic ball control on their half of the floor.
Leading 32-24 after Kenimer made the front end of her free throw attempts with only 50 seconds left to play, Parks knocked down her 3-pointer to keep the Bobcats in the game.
After that, Crain followed with another pair of successful free throw attempts to make it a three-possession game, before the Lady Bobcats hit two more 3-pointers in the final seconds.
Brittany Lowman led Gilmer with 11 points and Farlow finished with seven.
Farlow gave the Lady Bobcats a 16-14 lead going into halftime when she drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer from just inside midcourt, also only the second time in the game that they led.
Chestatee opened the game on a 7-2 run with a pair of free throws by Kenimer and a 3-pointer by Crain.
With the loss, Gilmer's season is now finished.