HEATH -- Alba-Golden fell to top-ranked Sunnyvale in Sunday's Class 3A Region II championship game.

But after the initial sting fades, the Lady Panthers will probably look back on the 68-55 defeat fondly.

Alba-Golden fans, aided with support from the Bowie basketball team it eliminated Saturday and from district rival Winnsboro, helped pack Rockwall-Heath High School's gym beyond its 2,500-seat capacity. Representatives from Heath imagine it was the most well-attended 3A game in the state all season.

Those in the stands saw a whale of a game. It was as close as 54-49 midway through the fourth quarter and even tighter through the first three periods.

"You want your kids to be a part of something like this," Lady Panthers head coach Brad Gibson said. "I thought there were three teams in this region that were the best. Sunnyvale, us and Brock. Brock and Sunnyvale had to fight each other to get here. Hats off to Sunnyvale. They did what it took to win."

Alba-Golden (35-4), the No. 10 team in 3A at the end of the regular season, led twice in the game for a total of 42 seconds, all in the first half. The game was, however, well within reach at the start of the second act. The Lady Panthers trailed 33-30 at halftime.

Raven Johnson reaches to foul Sunnyvale's Bria Johnson to stop the clock in the final seconds. Unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, the opposition shot 17-for-21 from the line in the final minutes. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Momentum swung in Sunnyvale's favor from the start of the third quarter. Alba-Golden turned it over four times and committed two fouls.

The Lady Raiders (35-2) used the miscues as part of a 10-0 opening run for a 43-33 lead.

Sophomore Shelby Wright wasn't going to let the Lady Panthers go down that easily though. She answered the burst with a solo 9-0 rally.

That constituted all of Alba-Golden's scoring in the third quarter until Macie Arrington hit a jumper with 17 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to a manageable 47-41 score at the buzzer.

Long-range shots from Jordan Dawson, Caitlin Lennon and a jumper from Wright helped maintain the two-possession difference, 54-49, through the three-minute mark of the final period.

Foul problems and excellent free throw shooting allowed the game to slip away.

Sunnyvale scored its last field goal with 7:36 left in the game, but it shot 17-for-21 after that point. Forced to keep fouling to preserve the clock, Alba-Golden only put up six points to match the Lady Raiders' free throw barrage.

"You can't let a team like that go on a 10-0 run," Gibson said. "You're asking for trouble. They're just too good and that's too much to overcome. Our kids played hard and I thought we shot pretty good today. They just broke us down defensively, we fouled them a lot and they don't miss many free throws. That's what good teams do."

Shelby Wright reaches out for a steal against Sunnyvale. She led Alba-Golden with 19 points and also recorded four rebounds in addition to the steal. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Sunnyvale finished the game shooting 33-for-40 at the line.

Wright tied Sunnyvale senior Grace Goodhart for a game-best 19 points. Macie Arrington scored 11 points in her final high school game.

Aside from Goodhart, three other Lady Raiders starters reached double figures. Ivy Alexander scored 18 points while Bria Johnson and Karah Sicurella added 13 points each. Only the team's starters scored.

Alba-Golden lost a 2-1 lead on a 3-point shot from Johnson. That helped the opposition work out to a 13-7 edge, but a 3-pointer from Wright and a Lennon score had the Lady Panthers down just one point, 13-12, at the end of the first quarter.

Another Wright shot from beyond the arc gave Alba-Golden a 24-22 lead with 3:12 remaining in the first half. Sunnyvale answered with a quick 6-0 run before the Lady Panthers rallied to trail by just three at halftime.

Gibson's team could be in a similar late season position next year. The program returns 10 of its 14 players from Sunday's game, including Wright and Lennon.

Arrington, Dawson, Raven Johnson and Gracie Peacock will graduate in May. They finished their careers as District 14-3A champions and one game shy of a state tournament berth.

"Our seniors have given it everything they've had," Gibson said. "I'm very proud."

Sunnyvale freshman Claire Knight cuts down a piece of the net from the Class 3A Region II championship game. The Lady Raiders advanced to the state tournament in San Antonio which will commence later this week. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

No. 1 Sunnyvale 68, No. 10 Alba-Golden 55

Girls Class 3A Region II Semifinal
At Rockwall-Heath High School, Heath

Alba-Golden        12    18    11    14    --   55
Sunnyvale           13    20    14    21    --   68
ALBA-GOLDEN (35-4) -- Shelby Wright 19; Macie Arrington 11; Kaylee Bizzell 8; Caitlin Lennon 7; Jordan Dawson 5; Raven Johnson 3; CeTara Carter 2.
SUNNYVALE (35-2) -- Grace Goodhart 19; Ivy Alexander 17; Bria Johnson 13; Karah Sicurella 13; Leslie Berry 4.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Alba-Golden: Wright (3), Arrington (2), Dawson, Johnson, Lennon. Sunnyvale: Johnson.