But River Ridge managed to keep North Clayton at bay in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s girls championship at the Lake City Classic and scored the first tournament title of its brief history with a 58-44 win.
“That’s huge,” coach Jason Taylor said. “That will give us a lot of confidence moving forward.”
The Lady Knights (9-5) were ahead by 11 points going into the fourth quarter. They made some timely shots early in the final frame to take a 44-30 lead that appeared to be in control with less than 6 minutes to play.
Then North Clayton, which reached the championship with a rally over tournament host Allatoona on Friday, started getting hot from beyond the arc. Three of its six total shots from behind the 3-point line came in the fourth quarter, and its 3-point shooting barrage helped cut River Ridge’s lead to single digits at 46-39 with roughly 3 minutes to play.
Thankfully, River Ridge countered with 3s of its own, and it has Jordan Livesay to thank for keeping North Clayton at a safe distance. Livesay hit two fourth-quarter 3s that helped take the wind out of North Clayton’s sails and totaled four for the game to lead the Lady Knights with 20 points.
Jessica Baker also contributed from behind the arc and finished with 11 points. It was a Baker 3-pointer that pushed River Ridge’s lead back to 10 with 2 minutes left to play, increasing their chances for survival.
However, River Ridge was required to make adjustments to defend the 3 in the second half.
When Alejandra Anderson, North Clayton’s hottest shooter in the first half, hit her second 3 of the game early in the third quarter to cut River Ridge’s lead to eight points, the Lady Knights made changes and prevented Anderson from scoring the rest of the game.
And when Shun Gayden started sinking 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter — it was her second 3 in a 2-minute span that cut the River Ridge lead to seven — the Lady Knights had to tailor their defense again. Then, Kenyatta Hardin threatened started sinking 3s and long jumpers to keep North Clayton in the game.
“I think this is the most 3s they’ve hit all season,” Taylor said of North Clayton’s six total 3-pointers.
Another key to River Ridge’s success Saturday was jumping out to an early first-quarter lead.
Parker Nayman finished with 13 points, nine of which came in the first quarter, and she helped River Ridge orchestrate a 10-0 first-quarter run that gave the Lady Knights a 10-point lead going into the second.
“We talked about (fast starts) from the get-go,” Taylor said. “We had to get out on them early. We knew we had a size advantage and Parker was amazing in the first quarter.”
River Ridge also outrebounded North Clayton 14-4 in the first quarter. Nayman ended up with 14 rebounds for the game, Jess Mlaska added 13 and Livesay finished with 10.