Ringgold's Margaret Stockburger has led many a team to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School over the years and the veteran coach knows how tough the Lady Warriors can play on their own home floor.
Friday night would be no exception.
An exciting, back-and-forth game that saw several lead changes, including two in the final 37 seconds, went the way of Stockburger's Lady Tigers, who stayed unbeaten in Region 6-AAA play with a 53-52 victory.
Ringgold moved to 4-0 in the region and 6-1 overall as they scored their sixth consecutive win.
"It's always tough to come play here at Lakeview and it's always been that way," Stockburger said. "We just tried to our players as ready as we could because we knew it would be tough. Tonight, we really didn't play well in the first three quarters, but I felt like we did a wonderful job there in that fourth quarter when we did what we needed to do to win."
Ringgold bolted out to a 16-7 lead after one quarter, but LFO (2-5, 1-3) would cut the lead down to 28-25 at halftime and they would stay within striking distance for much of the third quarter.
The Lady Warriors would finally take the lead in the latter stages of the third period Milijah Wlliams would hit a 3-pointer and Macey Gregg would dial up two from long distance in the final 2:30 of the quarter, including an NBA-range basket just before the buzzer, to give her team a 43-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Ringgold, however, would ratchet up the pressure and turned their defense into offense as they opened the quarter on a 10-0 run over the first five minutes of the period.
But trailing 50-46 with less than 90 seconds remaining, LFO got a banked-in 3-pointer from Alesya McBurnett to cut the gap to one. Then, following 1-of-2 free throws by Ringgold freshman Rachel Lopez, Anna Rountree grabbed a big rebound for the Red-and-White and found Williams, who drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put LFO back in front, 52-51, with 37 seconds left to play.
The Lady Warriors got a gift as Ringgold threw away the inbound pass, but the Lady Tigers would steal it right back and Lopez would draw a foul on a loose ball. She would go to the line and drain both shots to put her team back in front by one with 26 seconds to go.
Ringgold had a chance the salt the game away at the free throw line in the final 10 seconds, but they would miss on four straight attempts, allowing LFO to get one final possession with 6.6 seconds remaining.
Gregg, drawing heavy defensive pressure near the foul line, sent a pass into the lane as she looked for an open teammate near the basket. However, Ringgold post player Rachel Akers would make the final and perhaps biggest defensive play of the night as she intercepted the pass to seal the emotional victory.
"They didn't panic," Stockburger added. "We told them in a timeout (down 52-51) that we still had over 30-something seconds left to play and that we could get up and down the floor maybe four more times. We told them that there was no reason to panic because we're a good team. We told them to just play good defense, bring the ball down and get good shots and they did."
Sydney Pittman joined Lopez with 12 points each on the night. Pittman also picked up 10 assists and went 8-for-10 at the free throw line, while Lopez was 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. Maggie Reed had nine points, all in the first half, and Akers finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Shelby Cole, who Stockburger said was playing a little under the weather all night, scored just six points, but was praised by her coach for her defensive effort against the high-scoring Gregg. Riley Nayadley finished with four points and Faith Bryson chipped in with two.
Williams lead LFO with 16 points, while Gregg finished with 15. McBurnett ended the night with nine, followed by Rountree with five, Madison Stookey with three and Dekeia Rowe and Gabby Ware with two each.
LFO boys 54, Ringgold 37
In the boys' game, the Warriors erased an early 6-0 deficit with a 10-0 first-quarter run and never trailed again in a big victory over their rivals.
Cameron Gregg and Jacob King hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second quarter to help give the Warriors a 23-14 lead at the break. The Tigers would trim LFO's lead down to five points twice in the third quarter. However, a 15-2 run in the first 4:30 of the fourth quarter would erase any hopes of a Ringgold comeback.
The run would feature a pair of 3-pointers by Gregg, a tough bucket by King inside the paint and a breakaway dunk by Ruddy Ware. LFO would balloon its lead out to 50-30 with 2:17 left to play when both coaches made final wholesale substitutions.
King and Gregg both had 16 points for the Warriors (4-3, 3-1). Gregg finished with five 3-pointers on the night. Ware had nine points. Deandre Rowe finished with five. Zach Coots had four, while Riley Mosier and Robbie Henry scored two apiece.
Ringgold (3-4, 1-3) was led by nine points from Jackson House and six each from Logan Hullender and Christian Balistreri. Logan Murphy finished with four points. Cade Nayadley, Dalton Green and Chandler Johnson had three each. Blake Goldsmith added two points and Kobi Baker chipped in with one.
LFO will go to Chatsworth on Saturday to face North Murray in a region doubleheader, while Ringgold will be at home on Saturday night to entertain visiting Haralson County.