The Lakeview Warriors handled a short-handed Ringgold team handily in the team's first meeting a little over a week ago. But with the Tigers at full strength for Saturday's rematch, nobody in the Lakeview Middle School gym was expecting anything but a battle.
And that's exactly what the standing-room-only crowd got.
Tied at 23 with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter, Lakeview was able to make a big defensive stand when it needed it the most and the Warriors went on to cap an unbeaten run in the North Georgia Athletic Conference with a 38-30 victory over their rivals in the tournament finals.
The Warriors held the Tigers scoreless for nearly six minutes between the third and fourth quarters as they pulled away late in the game to claim the victory.
"This is very gratifying," Lakeview head coach Jerry McAfee said. "We knew we had a chance this year to have a really good team. We knew the tournament was going to be here this year, so we said it from the first day of practice - do you want to be playing in that final game or watching it from the stands?"
Ringgold led 10-7 after the first quarter and the Tigers would take their biggest lead of the game, 16-10, midway through the second. However, the Warriors would score the final four points of the half and trailed by just two going into intermission.
Trailing 21-18 midway through the third quarter and struggling to get in sync offensively, Lance Cochran gave his team a huge shot in the arm with a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the score with 2:52 left in the period. The score would be tied again at 23 a little over a minute later when Jamichael Davis regained the lead for the Warriors after scoring on an inbound play. His bucket came with 34 seconds left in the quarter and gave the hosts a 25-23 lead going into the final seven minutes of action.
Lakeview would look inside to big man Amari Burnett in the fourth and Barnett would deliver back-to-back buckets in the paint help give his team some breathing room. Meanwhile, Davis began to take over the game on both ends of the floor, crashing the boards on the defensive end and driving to the basket on the offensive end.
He knifed his way through the Ringgold defense for a lay-up to make the score 32-25 with just under two minutes remaining and followed by making both ends of a one-and-one with 1:24 to go to push the Warriors' lead out to nine points.
Ringgold's Brent Bowman, who missed the first meeting with an injury, answered with a basket to cut the lead down to seven with 1:12 remaining, but that would be as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the way. Davis made another one-and-bonus just nine seconds later, while he and Burnett both added one final free throw apiece down the stretch to help seal the victory.
Davis was named the tournament Most Valuable Player as he ended the game with 21 points. Burnett scored 11 points, seven coming in the fourth quarter, while Jonathan Lawrence matched Cochran with three points in the victory.
McAfee said his defensive adjustment at halftime was actually an offensive adjustment.
"Once we finally tied the score and then finally went ahead, we were just trying to run some clock and keep the ball out of (Ringgold's) hands because they are really good shooting team and they're so difficult to guard," the coach explained. "Defensively, we were just trying to grind it out in a zone. We ran a 1-3-1 that we haven't shown anyone all year and we were able to create a few turnovers with it and I thought that was key. Then we finally started making some shots. The game is a little easier when you start scoring with the basketball."
Bowman finished with 12 points, despite working through foul trouble all game long, while O'Reilly Matthews added 10 points. Six from Brevin Massengale and two from Ty Gilbert completed the scoring for the Tigers.
"A lot of credit goes to Ringgold," McAfee added. "They are a tremendous opponent and they do a great job, but I couldn't be prouder of our guys. It was really great for us to win it here, along with the girls' team. It's just a great feeling."