The third time was charming but stressful.

Guy-Perkins coach John Hutchcraft and his daughter, Conway coach Ashley Nance, had been trying for three years to reach state championship games together.

Two years ago, Conway made it to the 7A championship but an undefeated Guy-Perkins team was upset by Bay in the 1A semifinals.

Last year, Guy-Perkins made it and won the 1A state championship, but Conway fell short in a loss to Fayetteville in the semifinals.

John Hutchcraft is retiring after this season.

Last chance.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, Nance's Lady Cats made the 7A title game with a victory over Fort Smith Northside.

In a game later that evening, Guy-Perkins trailed Western Grove by 13 at the half and by 18 early in the second half.

"Our girls were following the game and they're telling me 'Your Dad is down by 18.'" Nance said. "Oh no.

"Then they tell me they're down seven with three minutes left. Maybe they will barely make it, I thought."

The Thunderbirds rallied down the stretch to win 65-58 to make a hard-fought reservation.

"I told the guys at halftime that Ashley had already made it to the championship, and I was going to need your help to get there, too ," Hutchcraft said. "I think it motivated them. They knew how big this was for me.

"I have seven seniors on this team. I told them that at some point in the second half, we were  going to be ahead. When we got it down to seven, I felt we would win. We play up-tempo basketball for four quarters all the time. Several times this year, we have worn teams downand won  in the fourth quarter.

"When you cut into a big lead like that, often you see a team get tense and make mistakes. That's what happened to Western Grove. I could see it in their eyes."

It was one of the final extremely close calls in Hutchcraft's 42 years.

"Unbelievable comeback," he said. "I can remember only one other time, maybe about10 years ago, when came back from a deficit that large in a game that big."

He and his daughter have been in championship games as coach and player, as coach and assistant coach and now as coach of different teams.

"I want to win my final game but just getting to a championship game one more time with my daughter and her team ... I'm good with that," he  said. "Ashley and I have dreamed about getting our teams there in the same year and it finally happened my last year. I'm blessed."

Sports editor David McCollum can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd