Defeating a team that has lost only once in 19 games was exactly what Caldwell County was going to have to do if they were going to steal their first district tournament title since 2017, but it was the team, and the game, that the Lady Tigers had spent all of last week, and all of last season preparing for.
Caldwell County (12-7-2) had less than 18 hours to rehab after its penalty kicks escape from Hopkins County Central on Monday in the semifinals, and had the best team in the region on their heels before giving up two goals in the final few moments as Madisonville North Hopkins walked away back to back district champs with a 4-1 decision in Princeton.
But the final score was not even close to describing just how tight things really were.
Camryn LaGrange fired off a hat trick, but until the final few minutes, Caldwell County had several chances to send the match into overtime.
Madisonville North Hopkins (18-1-1) also defeated Caldwell 6-0 earlier in the regular season back in August, showing just how far the Lady Tigers had come.
If dealing with Lady Storm stalwart Kaetlyn Cavanaugh was a chore on Monday, then defending the top player in the region and maybe in the entire side of the state in LaGrange (50 goals and 14 assists through 19 games as just a sophomore) was a life mission.
LaGrange scored three of the four goals for the Lady Maroons for a hat trick, and has accounted for over half of the Lady Maroon offense all by herself, and scored two of her three goals in the first half to help cement the victory.
"Two of her goals came from corner kicks, which means she didn't have to beat us to score, but she was able to get around us and score," Caldwell head coach Rhett Miller said of LaGrange. "She's a player to contend with. How many games do you think she's gotten three goals in this year? Most of, it not all of them. It's hard to contain a player like that and our girls did a good job. Our defense had a game plan, they followed it, we did what we need to do and it was impressive."
Caldwell County's backline was certainly busy early on.
Caldwell goalkeeper Karsyn Parker, whose outstretched arms saved the day just to get them to championship Tuesday in the first place, finished with 16 saves as the host Lady Tigers held firm on their home turf at Butler Stadium in Princeton.
Caldwell County fired off 12 shots, including the first goal of the game to open the eyes of the masses.
It was a slow burn of a first half, with much of it being played on the left side.
Through a scoreless first 20 minutes, Madisonville's hopes for a second straight district crown weren't dashed, but considering their win margin for much of the regular season, Caldwell's pressure defense had more than enough cause for concern for the region's top club.
And if it wasn't, Kendall Boyd's opening goal certainly was an eye opener, putting the Lady Tigers on top 1-0 in the 27th minute, drawing first blood on a rainbow over Kara Franklin (only 14 goals allowed in the season prior to that finish).
Parker stayed in the right places at the right time to deflect an array of Lady Maroon counters, but LaGrange got through defender Kelsie Adams and finally came through on a short corner kick from five feet out right down the middle to tie it 1-1 in the 33rd after being neutralized for much of the first half.
But all it took for LaGrange was a split second, and from there Madisonville began controlling the midfield.
LaGrange came right back in the 35th on a dish from Kylee Coyle to give Madisonville its first lead of the night, 2-1, where things would stay heading into halftime.
Maggie Ginn would help save a possession on a collapse in the 49th.
Parker made another diving save in the 65th to keep Caldwell within striking distance at 2-1, but someone was going to have to come up big for the Lady Tigers on the other end.
Kaylee McEnaney had a perfect look to tie it in an open goal, but her chip shot went just wide right with 13 minutes remaining.
LaGrange missed a chance in the 70th with a misfire from point blank, but the play that sealed it at 3-1 arrived on her header in the 77th off a beautifully set corner kick from Lillie Carman to send the Lady Maroons to back-to-back district titles.
Emma Peyton came through on yet another assist from Carman with the final insurance goal for the Lady Maroons at 4-1 in the final seconds.
Madisonville North Hopkins is now a dominant 25-8-1 all-time in the season series with the Lady Tigers.
The Lady Tiger season is certainly not over, as Monday's win propelled them into the Region 2 Tournament next week, a tournament they have not missed this century.
The biggest takeaway of all? Confidence.
"We take confidence out of what happened just now," Miller added. "That was a win that brings us confidence, because that is a win that shows us we can play. They are the best in the region. I think they're the best. Henderson will be close, but I think they're the best and we just played with them, so we have confidence now and that's what we like to see.
"If anyone was at this game you know it was not a 4-1 game, it was maybe a 3-1 or 2-1 game, but it was not a 4-1 game. With three minutes left I think my girls did let down a little bit because of the disappointment of a hard fought game, but that's a 2-1 or 3-1 game right there."
Laken White, Lucy Goffinet, Kaylee McEnaney, Maggie Ginn and Kelsie Adams were named to the all-district team for the Lady Tigers, while Blake Vivrette, Josh Hagan, Ethan Weatherspoon, Grayden Miller and Haiden Ball were named to the all-district boys' team for Caldwell County.