LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For one quarter, it was a one-on-one affair with star players doing their best Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird impersonations.
Then it boiled down to a team game when one of those standouts was saddled with foul trouble.
In the end, Cardinal Mooney held off a furious Bradenton Christian rally for a 49-44 victory to win the Class 3A-District 10 girls basketball championship on Friday at Out-of-Door Academy.
Mooney sophomore Camille Giardina picked up her fourth foul midway through the third quarter, and BCS took the opportunity to mount a comeback after facing a 10-point deficit.
Never miss a local story.
The Panthers could only trim the lead to four points before Giardina returned to the floor early in the fourth period.
And that was the closest BCS would get the rest of the way.
"We had a couple bad breaks and just missed some shots," Panthers head coach Jim Van Til said. "And you can't do that."
The Panthers' downfall came at the free-throw line, where they were 6-for-17. BCS also couldn't hit enough 3-pointers outside of star Hailey Dearlove's exquisite display.
"That kills us," Van Til said. "Our outside shooting wasn't there. We just couldn't get anybody to shoot consistently out there. I tried six different people. We needed somebody other than (Dearlove)."
Dearlove finished with 28 points, while Giardina rattled in 29 points to lead the Cougars.
Dearlove, who tallied five 3-pointers, scored all 10 first-quarter points for BCS, and Giardina had 13 of the Cougars' 15 points in the opening frame.
It was the third victory for Mooney over BCS this season, and the Cougars' second consecutive district title at the expense of the Panthers.
But it wasn't easy because BCS grabbed the momentum entering the fourth quarter.
Dearlove, who just missed buzzer-beating 3-pointers to close the first and second quarters, delivered after getting fouled at the top of the key at the end of the third.
Her subsequent free throw capped the four-point play, and two additional points from the charity stripe brought the game to a 39-35 deficit for BCS early in the fourth quarter.
The four-point play at the end of the third brought the Panthers fans to life. They chanted "B-C-S" over and over, while Dearlove slapped her hands together in excitement.
However, the club had a dry spell from the field in the final frame as Giardina re-entered and scored six points to create an insurmountable margin with just a few minutes remaining.
"I kind of tried to think of every scenario that could've possibly happened, what (Van Til) was going to do to try to stop her," Mooney head coach Ken Stokes said. "And we planned for it."
In Tuesday's district semifinal against tournament hosts ODA, Dearlove flashed her penchant for passing. The senior brought her shooting boots in Friday's title clash with Mooney. That was a little surprising for Stokes.
"Dearlove was everything we expected," Stokes said. "We played a box-and-one on her, but she was way more offensive. ... She knew that she had to do that (Friday)."
Mooney will host a regional quarterfinal on Feb. 7 against Largo Indian Rocks Christian, while BCS will visit Clearwater Calvary Christian.