COLUMBIA - Michele Boykin could hardly stand still while waiting near mid-court of the Colonial Life Arena floor to be awarded the Class AA girls championship trophy.
She bounced from one foot to the other and was joined by fellow seniors Mary Harriet Moore, Eran Artigues and Camden Taylor, all of whom had smiles that just couldn't be wiped away.
As soon as the foursome clutched the grand prize, the disappointment of a season ago was permanently erased.
Bishop England had its second state title in three years after handily defeating Andrew Jackson, 59-26, Saturday.
Coach Paul Runey felt this put an exclamation point on a great run.
"They felt they left a little bit on the table by not winning it (last year)," Runey said.
"Every day the goal was to get back to Columbia. It's what you work all year for. I think this group had a mission after last year. That was a game we felt we should have won and didn't. They put that up in the locker room as motivation all year long."
Runey took a minute in the celebration to reflect on the four seniors who stood next to him to accept the trophy.
"They were all hard workers," Runey said. "You talk about four girls that nearly won 100 games and lost 10 in four years, so I couldn't be prouder of them."
The Bishops (27-1) finish a four-year run with a 98-10 record and two state titles in three seasons. They can claim to be the dominant program in Class AA despite losing to Keenan in the final a season ago.
"We knew what we came in here for and it feels awesome, amazing," Boykin said.
It took very little time for Bishop England to establish its dominance. The Bishops fell behind 5-4 early but limited the Volunteers' opportunities from that point forward. They forced 14 first-half turnovers and limited Andrew Jackson (23-4) to 3-of-16 shooting from the field.
Boykin gave Bishop England the lead for good with a steal and layup before Artigues set the tone for the rest of the game. She hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions to increase the lead to 19-7, and it never fell below double figures the rest of the way.
"My teammates got the ball in a good rhythm and I was able to hit the open shots," Artigues said. "We've been doing it all year and we knew we had to keep it up."
Bishop England completed a 35-5 run to close the first half and held a 39-10 lead at the break.
"We took over the game early," Boykin said. "We came out knowing we had it. We knew what they were doing and executed really well."
The defensive effort held the Volunteers to 18.2 percent shooting overall. They limited Dareisha Sowell, who scored 40 points in the semifinals last week, to five points.
Runey thought the defense did what he thought it could in slowing the Andrew Jackson attack.
"After watching tape on Sowell, we knew she liked to put her head down and go," Runey said. "We couldn't really judge her speed, but I thought we had quick enough guards to where we could tie her up. I was impressed with the way we kept her from getting on track."
Moore led the way with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, three steals and three assists. Artigues finished with 12 points and Boykin chipped in 10 points, four assists and three steals.
Being able to capture control early allowed the seniors to sit down and enjoy the final three minutes.
"At halftime, we came out confident that unless we just played awful we had it," Moore said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."
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