HERSHEY, Pa. - With Seton-La Salle's potential game-winning three-pointer in the air, the Constitution players on the bench, including Raheem Liggins, locked arms and prayed for the best.
Their prayers were answered, as Levi Masua's right-wing attempt - he had nailed a tying shot from that spot a minute earlier - bounced off the back of the rim and into the hands of Kimar Williams.
With that, Liggins and the Generals began celebrating their 61-59 victory over the never-say-die Rebels, of suburban Pittsburgh, Saturday in the PIAA Class AA boys' basketball final at the Giant Center.
"When it missed, I ran over to the stands and gave my mom [Delores] a big hug and kiss," said Liggins, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior forward and starter. "This is a surreal feeling. No one can take this away from us."
After losing to Martin Luther King in the Public League final, Constitution (28-5) rebounded by winning six straight games and earning its second state crown in three seasons. It won at the Class A level in 2012.
"At first, when we lost to King, we were pretty down," Liggins said. "We just felt like we had lost everything. I told Ahmad [Gilbert, a 6-6 junior forward], 'We have to get this team together. We have to push ourselves.' "
Liggins, who spent two years at Constitution after transferring from Prep Charter, posted seven points and three rebounds against Seton-La Salle, District 7's champ.
Gilbert, the season-long catalyst, led the way with 19 points, 14 rebounds (four on offense), two steals, and a blocked shot in 29 minutes.
Williams, a junior guard, added 14 points, five assists, three rebounds, and a steal. In 15 minutes off the bench, 6-6 junior Chad Andrews contributed nine rebounds, eight points, and a rejection.
Generals coach Rob Moore said a highly competitive nonleague schedule, which included national powers Mater Dei (Calif.) and Lone Peak (Utah), greatly aided his junior-laden squad.
"Two years ago, when we had Savon [Goodman] and Daiquan [Walker], we did the same thing," said Moore, a health and physical education teacher at Ben Franklin.
The contest was tied at 43 after three quarters. At the start of the fourth, a 13-4 spurt gave the Generals, who committed only seven turnovers, a 56-47 advantage.
The Rebels (29-2) responded with a 12-3 burst. Masua (team-high 19 points) evened things at 59 on a three with a little more than a minute to play.
Junior guard Akeem King nailed the decisive free throw, making it 60-59, with 34 seconds remaining. He added another foul shot with 8.6 seconds to go.
Constitution 10 17 16 18 - 61
Seton-La Salle 9 15 19 16 - 59
C: Kimar Williams 14, Akeem King 5, Raheem Liggins 7, Ahmad Gilbert 19, Floyd Preito 2, Chad Andrews 8, Lincoln Kpokuyou 2, Haneef Vaughn 4.
SL: Dale Clancy 16, Christian DelGreco 4, Levi Masua 19, Ryan Norkus 12, Malik White 6, Cletus Helton 2.