The gnawing feeling began last March, when the Alemany High girls' basketball team was eliminated in the state semifinals by Irvine Woodbridge.
The jockeying began in December, when Alemany opted to jump from Division III to Division II-AA in hopes of a rematch with Woodbridge.
All the other details were finalized Wednesday night in the semifinals as Alemany defeated J.W. North, 63-53, at Cal Baptist College while Woodbridge beat Marina, 44-42, setting up the repeat match.
The teams will meet at the Pyramid in Long Beach on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
"This is what it's all about," said Alemany Coach Melissa Hearlihy, whose team will make its fourth consecutive appearance in a final. "But if I had talked all year about Woodbridge, we would have lost this game tonight."
While the first three playoff rounds had been strolls in the park--the Indians outscored those opponents, 198-79--second-seeded North (26-2) provided about all Alemany could handle.
The Indians (24-4), seeded No. 3, led by as many as 14 in the first half before things began to unravel in the third quarter.
Alemany committed seven turnovers and missed its first five shots during the opening four minutes of the second half. It didn't help that 6-foot-4 center Carly Funicello was called for her fourth foul and was benched with four minutes to play in the third quarter and did not return until midway through the fourth.
The Huskies whittled the difference to 38-37, but Alemany's Kelli Kobayashi hit a three-point basket and an ensuing free throw to provide breathing room, 42-37.
All season, the Indians have looked to Funicello, Samantha Rigley and Kelly McKay. But Kobayashi was the key, scoring a game-high 17 points, including four three-pointers.