HUTCHINSON -- As he watched 3-pointer after 3-pointer after 3-pointer by Beloit's Carson Cox swish through the net in Saturday's Class 3A state championship game, all Rod Wescott could think of was one thing.
"Why aren't we guarding him?" Wescott said.
He may not have liked the defense his team showed against Cox in the opening half when the Beloit guard hit 6 of 6 3-pointers and 7 of 7 shots overall in a 20-point half, but Wescott could hardly find displeasure in the way his Trojan team defended late.
After giving up a basket to Beloit's Vincent Palen to start the fourth quarter, Girard held Beloit without a field goal the rest of the way and stormed back for a 49-45 victory.
The win capped a 22-3 season for the Trojans and delivered the program's first state championship after two previous runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2009.
"This is amazing," Girard senior Caleb Muia said. "I've wanted to win a state championship with this team since my seventh-grade year. Watching guys who were seniors and junior when I was a little kid, it's all I wanted. To get it is just amazing."
Wescott was in his first year as Girard head coach for the runner-up finish in 2009 and used that experience to help fuel his team going into Saturday's title game.
"I said, 'Guys I've been in this game one other time and it's not fun when you end up on the wrong side of things,'" he said. "But we told them it's still just a game and we have to do our stuff and play our game."
As hot as Cox started out, however, Girard was able to hang right in the game. Muia hit a deep 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter that gave Girard a 16-12 lead at the end of the period and despite Beloit hitting 7 of 12 first-half 3-pointers, Girard was down just 31-25 at halftime when Ryder Worrell hit another buzzer-beating three to cap a 5-of-10 half beyond the arc for Girard.
"We hit some big shots," Wescott said. "I don't know what we were from three, but it was pretty good and we don't shoot a lot of them. The ones we took were good shots and the kids stepped up and knocked them down."
With his team still down 41-36 after three quarters, Wescott switched to a man defense for the final period and it paid off. Beloit missed its final 13 shots after Palen's basket to start the quarter and the only points Beloit managed the rest of the way were two free throws from Hudson Smith.
"We decided if we were going to go down, let's man them up," Wescott said. "We just played good solid defense and luckily we got some stops."
Smith's free throws gave Beloit a 45-42 lead with 4:53 left, but a 3-pointer by Worrell -- his fourth of the game -- tied it with 3:27 left and two minutes later, Carter Doherty got the game-winner on a follow shot of a Muia miss with 1:25 to play.
Beloit had three chances to tie, but missed all three shots and Muia sealed the in with 3 of 4 free throws in the last 14.5 seconds.
Muia finished with 15 points and Worrell added 12. Cox didn't score in the second half after his torrid start and still led all scorers with 20 points.
Girard was on the verge of not even making it out of sub-state, trailing Caney Valley by 11 in the fourth quarter of their semifinal game. But the team rallied for that victory, topped rival Baxter Springs in the sub-state finals and showed the persistence to come from behind in all three state-tournament wins.
"Playing that competition we had and through regionals even, we were just battle-tested," Girard senior Evan Troike said. "It helped us a lot."