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Connecting with his new girls basketball team, Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Tim Ellefson admits now, wasn't easy. He had to earn players' trust.

Then Ellefson, who arrived this season from Hutchinson, cashed in on a season's worth of building bonds. Down by three points to Stewartville with less than four minutes to play in Saturday's Class 3A state tournament championship game, he called an inbounds play the team only ran at practice this season.

"As I drew it up on the bench," Ellefson said, "there were a lot of questions."

But the Red Knights got the ball to senior Sierre Lumpkin, who drew a foul. She sank both free throws. The Tigers scored next to retake a two-point lead. Then Lumpkin drilled a three-pointer and her team never trailed again.

BSM closed out a 66-60 victory at Williams Arena, the program's first state title since 2010. Lumpkin scored a career-high 21 points to hold off the upset-minded Tigers.

"I stayed confident in myself," Lumpkin said. "I've been practicing my threes every day, and I knew I could make them. Sometimes when I miss, I'll get down on myself. But today I thought, 'Just stay confident and keep shooting even if you miss.' "

She didn't miss much. On a night when Stewartville shot 7-for-30 (23.3%) from the three-point arc, Lumpkin went 3-for-3 from deep in the first half. She finished 5-for-6 in the game.

"Sierre told me earlier in the season how she would get so nervous on game days as a junior because she was so afraid of making a mistake," Ellefson said. "We tried to build an atmosphere of, 'It's OK. We will play through our mistakes.' "

"You can see when she's comfortable and not worried about a miss, she came through for us big-time today," Ellefson said. "It's all about trust and relationships."

The No. 4 seed Tigers (28-3), a state tournament newcomer riding a 26-game winning streak, led 52-49 with 5:29 to play. But they couldn't hold off the No. 2 seed Red Knights (26-6) down the stretch.

"We were up and we had a three-point shot down the pipe and somehow it popped back up," Tigers coach Ryan Liffrig said. "That would have been huge for us. Then they hit a big one with a girl that doesn't normally hit one."

Her name is Sierre Lumpkin, who contributed well above her season average of 9.1 points per game.

"We knew that when Sierre is on fire, she doesn't miss," teammate Olivia Olson said.

Olson, a Star Tribune All-Metro first-team selection, finished with 19 points. Stewartville was led by Savannah Hedin (17 points) and Haylie Strum (12).

"We knew that we could come back," Strum said. "And we did. But it just didn't go our way in the end."