River Ridge (21-7) trailed by seven points at the end of the first quarter and didn’t take their final lead until Lucy Stone took an inbound pass, dribbled around the top of the key and drove to the basket for a layup. The basket was good, Stone drew a foul and then the senior made the ensuing free throw for a three-point lead with just 27 seconds on the clock.
Northwest Whitfield’s first 3-point attempt was tipped out of bounds, and a traveling violation was called before the Lady Bruins (23-4) could get off a second attempt. Stone was sent to the free-throw line again with 9 seconds to play and drained both shots for the final margin.
River Ridge also beat Northwest Whitefield for the championship in 2013, but that came with standouts Jordan Livesay and Parker Nayman leading the way. With Livesay and Nayman now playing collegiately, River Ridge was led by a new group of leaders, including Stone, Jessica Baker and Jessica Mlaska.
After the game, River Ridge coach Jason Taylor quipped that he had his first heart attack when the Lady Knights were trailing 15-3 with less than 2 minutes left in the first quarter.
“Nothing was going in and we were struggling a little bit,” Taylor said. “I just encouraged them to relax and play through it. Our shots would fall. We just had to run our stuff and be patient. We slowly got back into it.”
Leonor Nickell scored seven points before the end of the quarter as River Ridge cut the deficit to 17-10 at the end of one. From there, the Lady Knights took over and outscored the Lady Bruins 22-10 in the second quarter for a five-point lead at the half. Alexis Pepin scored all five of her points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer.
River Ridge held the five-point lead through the third quarter. It wasn’t until 3:50 remained in the game that Northwest Whitfield was able to tie the game at 39-all with a pair of free throws by Macy Weeks.
The teams then matched each other point-for-point until Stone gave the Lady Knights their final lead.
Taylor said that once his team was playing with a three-point lead with less than 30 seconds to play, he cautioned his players about giving up a 3-point basket.
“I just said not to foul them,” Taylor said. “We just wanted to defend the 3 and move our feet well enough to keep them in front of us and not get a good look at a 3-pointer.”
Stone led River Ridge with 15 points and went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line. She scored 10 in the second half.
Nickell added 14 points and Mlaska finished with nine.
Northwest Whitefield was led by Halle Ford’s 23 points, but no other player scored more than six points.