TOMS RIVER, N.J. - When the Group 1 girls' basketball final was over Sunday, everyone wanted to know about Haddon Township's Alayxiah Carr, the hobbled guard who simply would not exit the game.
Afterward, Carr hoisted herself onto the back of the team's manager for a ride off the court. Carr - who had just endured 31 minutes, 15 seconds of play on a sprained right medial collateral ligament - was in too much pain to walk any farther.
But just before she reached the locker room door, a smile came across her face. "It's OK," she said into the ear of her carrier. "At least we came back."
The Hawks lost to New Providence, 32-30. They were heavy underdogs, and when they went into halftime down by 13 points, the game felt like it was over.
But Haddon Township tied the score in the third quarter and was within one possession at the final buzzer.
"We had our ups and downs all season, but in the end, we kept our heads," said junior guard Morgan Lenahan, whose team also fell in this game last year. "This season was a lot of fun - these girls are my best friends."
Lenahan paired a game-high 17 points with three assists. She scored six points during a 10-0 run to open the second half. The run ended with the Hawks (26-4) ahead by 20-17 with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
Haddon Township had the lead midway through the fourth until a 6-0 run by New Providence (22-9) put the game out of reach.
At times, Carr could barely walk, but she continued to fight. Normally a shifty guard, the injury sapped her of her quickness and limited her to just two points. But it didn't stop her from pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds.
"A lot of people were asking me why I would play with a messed up knee," Carr said. "But this is my senior year, I wasn't going to sit out. It hurt the entire game, but I just fought through it. As a team, we never gave up. It definitely makes me proud."
Even the opposing team talked about the sight of Carr hopping from player to player on defense.
"That shows you what type of team and what type of character they have," said New Providence coach Cap Pazdera.
Haddon Township 2 5 15 8 - 30
New Providence 9 11 2 10 - 32
HT: Morgan Lenahan 17, Alayxiah Carr 2, Bella Preziosi 3, Sarah Getzinger 6, Grace Marshall 2.