The Region 7AAAAA champion Lady Knights (22-7) led by as many as 11 points in second quarter, but they saw lead slip away and trailed 25-23 at the half. From there, though, River Ridge battled back and finally retook the lead for good with a minute left in the third quarter.
Lady Knights coach Jason Taylor said his team relaxed too much in the second quarter.
“I told them we just needed to start playing like we have been playing all year long,” Taylor said. “We just needed to go down, execute and finish. I thought we got up on (Sandy Creek) and then, defensively, got lazy.”
Sandy Creek (11-17) kept the score close — often trailing by just a basket — until Leonor Nickell completed a three-point play with 1:33 left in the game to give the Lady Knights at 48-42 lead. After that, Lucy Stone, Sydney Rodie and Jessica Baker put the game away on the free-throw line.
River Ridge closed the game with a 12-2 run — many of the points coming from the free-throw line.
“They still count,” Taylor said. “They have got to foul you to try to stop the clock and we just had to finish.”
River Ridge led 16-5 after the first quarter, but Sandy Creek cut into it with a series of 3-pointers. The Lady Knights were outscored 10-0 to end the second quarter.
Jessica Mlaska led River Ridge with 21 points. Stone added 10 of her 12 points — including a pair of 3-pointers — in the second half, and Nickell finished with 10 points.
Jasmine Jones led Sandy Creek with 16 points and Sydney Jarmon added 13.
River Ridge will host Region 6AAAA runner-up Columbia — the same team that eliminated the Lady Knights in last year’s quarterfinals — in Monday’s second round.