Justice Swett missed most of her junior season with a back injury.
She made up for it this year, leading Ensworth to its third Division II-AA girls basketball championship 57-42 over Brentwood Academy at Allen Arena on Saturday.
Swett was named tournament MVP after scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds for the Lady Tigers (27-1), who also won state titles in 2008 and 2010.
She suffered a bulging disc after taking a charge in a summer scrimmage before her junior year.
“It wasn’t looking good because it was hurting a nerve in my back that ran down through my leg,” Swett said. “It was affecting everything in that foot and ankle, so I had to rehab all the way up through my back. (But) I was determined to play.”
Ensworth coach Hubie Smith’s voice cracked with emotion as he talked about Swett’s comeback.
“They told her she wouldn’t be able to play,” Smith said. “Her perseverance and toughness — I’ve never enjoyed coaching a person more than I have her.”
The game started at 9:10 a.m., which is believed to be the earliest start for a high school basketball state championship in Tennessee. There were four high school games and two Lipscomb University basketball games scheduled at Allen Arena on Saturday.
The Tigers won their last 27 games after a 69-64 loss to nationally ranked Riverdale in the opener.
Kennesha Nichols, a 5-foot-10 forward, added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Tigers. Sophomore guard Carson Pittman came off the bench to score 12 points.
It was Ensworth’s third win this season over Brentwood Academy (18-11).
“Every year is different, but this has been the wildest one,” Brentwood Academy coach Rhonda Brown said. “We’ve had injuries, we’ve had kids that we thought we would have from day one that we never got, we’ve had kids getting expelled. The core of them — there are seven that I play a lot — they were solid.”
Brentwood Academy narrowed the deficit to 48-42 with 4:18 left, but Ensworth scored the last nine points.
“I knew anything was possible with this team because we’ve had so many ups and downs,” Brentwood Academy forward Hailey Pierson said. “When we cut it to six I knew we could do it, but we just didn’t.”
The Lady Eagles made 20 turnovers under constant pressure from the Lady Tigers’ defense.
A pair of freshman guards, Anna Stephens and Breuna Jackson, led Brentwood Academy with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Briarcest’s Jasmine Cincore won the Miss Basketball award.