No. 14 Lake Braddock had the sharpshooters and sixth-ranked Fairfax had intimidating 6-foot-3 center Mara Cunningham, so it figured to be close.

Debbie Schafer's free throws with nine seconds left locked up Fairfax's 47-43 victory in the Washington Post Holiday Classic inaugural girls championship yesterday at Georgetown University's McDonough Arena.

"I was afraid that if I missed them, it would have been my fault" if the Rebels lost, said Schafer.

But she and the rest of the cast behind Vanderbilt-bound Cunningham (19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) remained poised when their center went to the bench with her fourth foul with 5:49 left in the third quarter.

"I had the confidence in them because of the defense we were playing," said Cunningham, the tournament most valuable player. "I was hoping that we would pull it out in the end because we really don't have very many close games."

She returned two minutes into the fourth quarter and immediately made an impact, snaring an offensive rebound and scoring on a soft bank shot to boost the Rebels' lead to 39-35.

Her teammates were relieved to have her back. "We were doing fine without her, but we needed her back," said Schafer. "We probably would have fallen apart without her."

But even with Cunningham in the middle, Fairfax might have been subdued had the Bruins not gone into a cold-shooting spell in the waning minutes.

Behind its main outside scoring threats, Lauren Reitwiesner (18 points) and Kristin Jepson (13 points), the Bruins scrapped back to tie at 43 on two free throws by Reitwiesner with 1:06 left.

It was a short-lived tie; the Rebels rushed downcourt and passed to Cunningham, who towered over her defender to score on a leaning bank shot with 53 seconds left for a 45-43 Fairfax lead.

Lake Braddock patiently worked for a good shot, but Reitwiesner's 14-footer missed with 11 seconds left and Schafer grabbed the rebound and immediately was fouled.

"I felt real bad for the kids because they were being very patient in the second half and getting good quality shots, but they just wouldn't fall for us," said Lake Braddock Coach Melissa Trowbridge. "It was a big factor in this game because when {Cunningham} was in, they got some rebounds and kept us from getting any second shots."

In the consolation game, Craig Lake had 19 points and Lindsay Seawright had 17 points and 12 rebounds in Whitman's 54-49 victory over Blair.