They can say the "S" word now.
The New Life Academy girls basketball team advanced to their first-ever State Class A Girls Tournament by means of winning the Section 4A championship with a 63-29 thumping of West Lutheran on March 8 at Delano High School.
"It feels very good," coach Matt Callahan said.
One year after falling in the Section 1A final, coach Matt Callahan's club completed their quest of an inaugural berth in the Class A field after compiling a 26-3 record in 2007-08.
"It's been on everyone's mind ever since the loss last year," Callahan said of the Eagles' desire to return to the section final and win. "The girls did a great job of remaining focused all season."
The 2008 4A final did not purport to be much of a game -- New Life had already defeated their Minnesota Christian Athletic Association rivals by lopsided scores in their previous two meetings this year -- and it wasn't.
"There have been so many upsets of No. 1 seeds in the sections this season, we had to be careful," Callahan said. "West was on a streak and anything can happen."
After fighting off a challenge in the section semifinal against Christ's Household of Faith, New Life brushed off an early West uprising and had matters well in hand by halftime with a 46-18 lead.
"We were tied 10-10 early on and one girl -- Holly Recht -- had all of their points," Callahan said. "We put our top defender, Kristin Stein, on her, shut her down, and went on a 17-0 run that became a 36-8 run to go into the half."
The Eagles throttled back in the second half, yet still added to their advantage by outscoring West 17-11 over the final 18 minutes and claimed their crown with a 34-point victory.
New Life guard Jenny Ramey was the game's high scorer with 17 points, while backcourt mate Danielle Schmidt chipped in 10 points. Center Cara Lutes was a power in the paint with game-highs of 10 rebounds and three blocks, while also contributing a team-best four assists.
"It was just a very good game for us," Callahan said. "We have been playing with a renewed focus these last three games."
With a tip of the cap to the quirk of fate, New Life will open tournament play against the very team that denied the Eagles a trip to State last season: Rushford-Peterson.
"Like forward Sarah Nisleit said: 'It's revenge time,'" Callahan said.
The Class A brackets are un-seeded and are aligned by section, meaning that both teams knew all year matters could lead to this.
"We were always hoping that we'd get another crack at Rushford-Peterson," Callahan said.
The Trojans, who defeated New Life 61-46 in the 1A final last March in Rochester, are 18-11 this season and advanced to state with a 48-39 win over Bethlehem Academy-Discovery.
Rushford-Peterson is led in scoring by sophomore Jade Pelzl, who scored a school-record 503 points this season (17.3 points-per-game average).
While the Eagles were ranked third in the final Associated Press coaches poll, the Trojans were not listed amongst the Class A top-10.
"There are four teams in the tournament ranked in the top-10," Callahan said. "I would expect one of those four to win (State)."
New Life is the "home" team for the rematch, which will be played March 13 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m.
The winner of the Thursday morning matchup will advance to the Class A semifinals, which will move to the Target Center in Minneapolis for a noon start on March 14.
The state title game will be played at noon on March 15.
"I like our chances," Callahan said. "If we play the way we have been these last three games, teams are going to have to battle to beat us."