Four seasons ago, Evangelical Christian Academy's freshmen starters were told just wait until your senior season.
The Ellicott boys' basketball team had accomplished other feats in nearly 20 years, but a district title wasn't one of them.
On Saturday, ECA's girls' basketball team and Ellicott's boys' hoops program captured 2A District 8 titles and secured their trips to next week's regional tournaments.
With the game tied at 21, Maggie Kirkpatrick watched - as did the entire gym - as her 3-point attempt dipped three-quarters below the rim, then popped back out, bounced off the rim again and kicked off.
As soon as she saw teammate Amanda Bost near the rebound, Kirkpatrick was yelling and waving frantically, calling for the ball and another shot at the 3. Bost grabbed the ball and kicked out immediately.
Kirkpatrick shot. The ball swished in. The bucket gave ECA a three-point lead and the Eagles never trailed again, on their way to the district title with the 39-28 victory.
"I wanted it," Kirkpatrick said. "I know I can make them. ... As soon as she kicked it out to me I was like, OK, I got to get this one. This is a second chance."
The No. 3 Eagles held No. 1 Ellicott to seven points the rest of the way. It didn't help that Ellicott's twin towers of Devinne Larreau and Graciela Donez both went down in the third quarter with injuries and didn't return.
Larreau is expected back next week at regionals, despite the ankle injury, coach Jeff Zick said. Donez, the team leader in rebounds, will see a doctor in the coming days to see about her knee injury, Zick said.
Already missing their starting point guard to a torn ACL, Ellicott couldn't recover.
"They were the majority of our scoring the entire year," Zick said. "With Larreau, she is our point guard sometimes, our post, she does everything for us. Once she went out, we didn't really adjust very well."
The Eagles fell to Ellicott in the district final last season. Not this time. And for Kirkpatrick and her fellow seniors, it couldn't have gone better.
"As freshmen we were told, just wait until your senior year, you guys are going to be so good," she said. "Getting this first-place championship has really been a dream come true for us."
After beating Simla 49-40, the Ellicott boys claimed their first district title since 1999, coach Brian Murray said, holding a tournament-title plaque he didn't look ready to relinquish any time soon.
After some of the trials the team has been through, he was excited to hold on to the trophy and the moment.
"Some of my losses I've had three starters sitting on the bench, either injuries or discipline issues they were going to sit out," Murray said. "We're just fighting back now. There's some games that changed a lot of seedings for the state that I didn't have my whole team on the court. We're all here now, we're all good, we're all on the same path."
It took a while for the No. 2 Thunderhawks (14-7) to gain control against No. 5 Simla and its zone defense.
Midway through the third quarter, the Cubs (12-10) built a 29-23 lead. Ellicott eventually clawed back, punctuated by Chris Crist's 3-pointer 5 seconds before the third-quarter buzzer sounded, putting the Thunderhawks up 30-29.
The lead changed hands three times over the first 2:21 of the fourth until Chase Hamilton's only field goal of the game put Ellicott up 36-35 with 5:20 left. The Thunderhawks never trailed again.
"We went out there and actually executed," said Ellicott senior Matt Davidson, who finished with a team-high 10 points. "We took practice serious for a change and actually, really went hard. We didn't lollygag around."