TAMPA — Survival was the name of the game for Freedom in Wednesday night's 53-52 overtime win over Hillsborough at Gaither.
Both teams were dismal at the free-throw line down the stretch, but the Patriots made them when it counted most in a valiant comeback effort.
In the other 5A-9 semifinal, Sickles cruised to a 57-15 win over Chamberlain to set up Friday night's championship game against Freedom at 7.
"That was probably the best, ugliest game that we've played," Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke said. "We survived and that's what this time (of the season) is all about."
Freedom (19-5) made just 5-of-16 free throws from the stripe in the fourth quarter and fell behind 47-40. But Kaitlyn Pacholke converted 1-of-2 from the line to tie the score at 49 in the waning seconds of regulation to force overtime.
In the extra frame, Tashana Bludsaw hit a jumper in the lane to put Hillsborough up by a basket, but that lead did not stand up when Neena Pacholke, Kaitlyn's sister, drained a 3-point shot.
The Terriers (9-13) had their own clutch moment when Vashia Barnes made 1-of-2 free throws for a tie at 52 with 17 seconds left. Kaitlyn Pacholke was fouled after a steal and went 1 for 2 at the line with 1.9 seconds left to clinch it for the Patriots.
"I think, honestly, that Kaitlyn stepped up big," Laurie Pacholke said.
Barnes led all scorers with 19 and Bludsaw, who left the game with a left leg injury in the final seconds, had 18.
Lindsay Taggart led Freedom with 16 points and Kaitlyn Pacholke scored 12, including 5-of-8 from the line.
In the first game, Bre Crum led Sickles (16-8) with 19 points. Amber Henson added 13 and Tia Thomas 10.