KOKOMO - The Class 2A Sheridan girls' basketball team clinched a berth into tonight's Sectional 39 championship game when they defeated the Tipton Blue Devils 60-44 on Friday night.

The win avenged the Blackhawks recent heartbreak against the Blue Devils. Last season Tipton ended Sheridan's season 59-37 in the opening game of the sectional. This season the Blackhawks lost another to the Blue Devils but in more heartbreaking fashion. The final score of their regular-season meeting was 54-53.

"It's nice but to us it was just the next step," Sheridan head coach Jeff Guenther said. "It got us to Saturday."

Friday night's game opened slow with neither team finding a rhythm in the first quarter. Until the final 15 seconds of the quarter, neither team had reached double figures in scoring. The two teams combined for 13 turnovers in that stretch.

With 15 seconds left in the quarter Sheridan's Payton Buckner drained a 3-pointer to cushion the lead.

In the second quarter not much changed. The Blackhawks were able to move out to an eight-point lead by the end of the half but struggles with ball handling left fans far from celebrating early.

With a history of losses to the Blue Devils, the Blackhawks were not going to let them come back easy though.

Within the first four minutes of the second half the Blackhawks' lead grew to 14 points and frustration was evident on the faces of the Tipton players. With three minutes left in the half an ugly intentional flagrant foul was called on a Blue Devil player. This sent sophomore Brittany Welch to the free-throw line to strengthen the lead.

With another 12-point lead, the Blackhawks stuttered. A pair of 3-pointers from Tipton's junior Macie Lively made it a game again. With one quarter to go and momentum favoring the Blue Devils, the Blackhawks hung onto a five-point lead.

In the fourth quarter the lead for the Blackhawks never dropped below three points and with 4:06 left in the game they began to put the Blue Devils away. A 9-0 run in a 1:27 second stretch blew the doors open on the game.

With 2:41 remaining fans of the Blackhawks could finally begin to rejoice that they were going to take the Blue Devils down. Up by 14, the Blackhawks were able to cruise home.

The Blackhawks were led by the duo of Audrey Reed and Welch. Reed finished with 23 points and nine rebounds and Welch had 18 points and eight rebounds.

"Their play was great and did so much but it wasn't really the story of how we won," Guenter said. "Us stopping Macie Lively early was what did it. She hit some shots late in the game, but we really kept a handle on her in the early part. She is a great player."

The Blackhawks will look for their first sectional championship in girls' basketball history tonight against the Elwood Panthers at Taylor High School. Tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.