A change of the River Ridge High School girls basketball team’s defense in the second half took Northwest Whitfield out of its rhythm. After that, nothing was stopping the Lady Knights from taking the Region 7-4A tournament title.
River Ridge, a third-year school in Cherokee County, turned a one-point game at halftime into a second-half rout, taking a 72-47 win over the Lady Bruins on Saturday at Dalton High’s Cats Den.
Both teams will advance to the Class 4A state tournament and will host in the first round, which is scheduled for Tuesday. River Ridge (20-8) will face Region 6-4A No. 4 seed Redan, while Northwest (19-8) will take on No. 3 seed Marist.
River Ridge led 30-29 at the end of the first half as Northwest’s Halle Ford and Autumn Blackwell were able to hurt the Lady Knights both on the perimeter and on drives to the basket.
But to start the second half, River Ridge coach Jason Taylor changed his defense to a triangle-and-two, putting his best defensive players on Ford and Blackwell.
The duo, who had combined for 21 points in the first half, managed just nine points in the second half, and no one for the Lady Bruins stepped up to fill that gap.
The Lady Knights outscored Northwest 23-9 in the third quarter to take control of the game and cruise to the win.
“We couldn’t score in the second half, and they did — a lot,” Northwest coach Greg Brown said. “We just never could respond very well to their defense when they changed in the third quarter, and that is on me. Give them a lot of credit. They are a great basketball team, and they did the things they needed to do down the stretch to win the game.”
Taylor said the defensive play of his team and the hot shooting of Jessica Baker and Jordan Livesay was the difference in the second half.
“I wasn’t very happy with our defense in the first half,” Taylor said. “Then in the second half we started attacking the basket more, and we tried to get to the wing a little more and Jessica and Jordan hit their shots.”
Livesay led all scorers with 20 points, while Baker finished with 19.
Ford led the Lady Bruins with 15 points, and Blackwell had 13.
Northwest scored the first basket of the second half to take its first lead of the game, but that was good as it got for the Lady Bruins. River Ridge went on an 18-2 run from there and never was threatened. The closest Northwest got the rest of the way was 12 points.
Despite the loss, Brown is excited about having a state tournament game in Tunnel Hill after a two-year drought of even making the bracket.
“We will forget about this game pretty quick and get ready for the first round,” Brown said. “These girls had a bad third quarter, but we are still a team that can accomplish a lot more on the year.”