After her team blew a 12-point lead against its arch-rival, Warde sophomore Tiara Fountain knew she had to take over.

And she did, on both sides of the ball.

Fountain scored five of her game-high 18 in the final 3:08, and blocked Julia von Ehr's potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer as the Mustangs held off rival Ludlowe, 46-43 on Tuesday at Fairfield Warde High School.

"She's been our offensive player all year," Warde coach Dave Danko said about Fountain. "She hit some key baskets."

With the win, Warde clinched its 19th straight trip to the state tournament. Warde's Jerelyn Luther scored six, grabbing 10 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth. Tiara's sister Jamera added 10 points, as well, as the Mustangs won for the eighth time in their last 10 games.

Ludlowe's Sarah Nesi led the team with 10 points, Meredith McGann scored eight points, grabbing five rebounds and Kat Mahder scored six, with 14 rebounds, 11 of which came in the second half.

"I'm always proud of my girls," Ludlowe coach Sarah Huntington said. "To fight like that, and play with unbelievable heart...I don't think saying I'm proud does it justice."

Warde led the whole game, until the fourth quarter. The Mustangs used a 14-4 run to open and take control game. Warde's lead peaked at 21-10 midway through the second, and the Mustangs led by nine, 25-16, at halftime.

Huntington lamented her club's inability to convert layups and free throws, especially in the first half. The Falcons shot just 11-21 from the line.

"We missed some wide open layups," Huntington said. "That's going to cost you."

Ludlowe's defense turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, as the Falcons chipped away at the Warde advantage. A 9-2 run to open the half, capped by McGann's 3-pointer, cut Warde's lead to 27-25.

"Ludlowe fought," Danko said. "They had the desire to win, and the belief to win, and we had to defend our home court."

But Warde answered right back, building a seven-point advantage, yet leaving the Falcons in the game due to shoddy free-throw shooting. The Mustangs only shot 13-28 from the line, with 10 of those missing coming in the second half.

"It could have really hurt us if we had lost, missing all those free throws," Danko said.

Ludlowe finally struck at the end of the third, and into the fourth, as a 12-2 run, keyed by Nesi's six and Briana Curran's lead-taking layup, pushed the Falcons ahead 40-37.

"We had to get it inside," Huntington said. "It opened up some of our shots on the outside."

But Warde countered with an 8-0 run, re-taking a 45-40 advantage. Von Ehr's banked 3-pointer with 24 seconds left made it a two-point game, and Jamera Fountain's one-of-two from the line

set up Tiara's game-deciding block on the

freshman's second 3-point try, that would have tied the game.

"We were fortunate to get through that screen," Danko said. "We came up huge."

Huntington, initially, was on officials that Fountain may have fouled von Ehr on her shot attempt, a fact that the Warde sophomore didn't refute.

"I thought I fouled her," Fountain said. "Then the buzzer went... It was a great feeling."

"Who knows if she really got fouled," Huntington said after the game.

The Mustangs will host Staples on Friday, looking to lift its win streak to five.

The Falcons-- who have now lost four straight, five of seven and four straight to Warde-- will visit Bassick on Friday at 5:15 p.m.