Members of the Pisgah girls basketball team bent down like runners in a sprinting stance at the starting line.
They then raced toward the 2020 Class 3A girls state championship trophy, each player grabbing it with one hand. With their other hands, they each held up three fingers, finally acknowledging the history they had been silently chasing.
It’s difficult to make history in a tradition-rich program. But these Eagles did so on Friday.
Pisgah completed a championship three-peat, defeating T.R. Miller 59-52 at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena in Birmingham Friday afternoon.
Afterward, any talk of legacy centered around these Eagles and their historic moment.
“We’re leaving our legacy,” said Pisgah senior and state tournament MVP Chloe Womack. “We tried not to think about it. Nobody said three-peat, (amongst) us, the players, until (Friday). That’s the only time we said it. We just thought ‘we’ve got to get (to the finals), then we could talk about it.’ It was just get to this game, win, and then we can celebrate a three-peat.”
Pisgah became just the 10th program to win three consecutive AHSAA girls basketball state championships.
After finally getting a much longed for state title repeat last season, longtime Pisgah coach Carey Ellison’s wait for a historic three-peat took only 365 days and a determined group of players.
“We had something to prove,” said Ellison, who has coached Pisgah to six of their eight all-time state championships. “I love each and every one of those eight (players) that (graduated) last year. But I needed these folks to know that I believed in them. Lots of people didn’t. That’s been a driving force the entire year, just to prove that they’re good enough, to prove themselves, maybe not only to each other, but to people who questioned ‘how you going to do it?’ I don’t think (the players) ever doubted.”
No. 2-ranked Pisgah ran quite the gauntlet to earn its three-peat, defeating No. 6 Midfield and No. 4 Susan Moore in the Northeast Regional before taking down No. 5 Pike Road and No. 1 T.R. Miller in the state tournament.
The Eagles finished the season with a 31-3 record, capping their three-year championship run with a combined 96-5 record.
“We believed in ourselves,” said senior Layla Hatfield.
Friday’s victory did not come easily. The Eagles soared to a 34-16 halftime lead, but T.R. Miller fought back in the second half. There were some tense moments, but Pisgah’s lead was never really threatened.
And with less than 20 seconds left, Ellison subbed his starters out one by one so they could receive appreciative cheers from the Pisgah faithful. One by one he greeted them as they left the court. The next time they were on the court, they were celebrating another championship.
Ellison, wearing his now famous red sports coat, gave himself a moment to exhale in relief before joy took over. A historic championship — a sentimental one at that.
“The words are just not there to express how much this bunch means to me, (and) how much this victory means to all of us,” Ellison said. “It’s more than I deserve. Just so thankful for these girls.”