The LaFayette Ramblers completed a 12-0 run through the Region 6-AAAA regular season on Tuesday night, although it took four quarters and a four-minute overtime session to do it.
In what was arguably the wildest game in the entire region this season, LaFayette saw a 26-point halftime lead unbelievably turn into a six-point deficit with less than two minutes to go in regulation. However, the Ramblers would rally late and finally regained control in the final minute of overtime to pick up a physically and emotionally-draining 96-86 win at Walker County rival Ridgeland.
LaFayette (20-2 overall) led 19-5 less than halfway through the first period and extended its advantage to 29-11 after the first quarter before going into the locker room comfortable ahead, 54-28.
But little did anyone in Panther Gymnasium know what was about to transpire in the second half.
Ridgeland (7-18, 2-10) scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and parlayed that into a 17-4 run to chop the lead in half. And while the Ramblers were having difficulty getting shots to fall in the third quarter, the Panthers suddenly couldn't miss.
The home team racked up 33 points in that third quarter alone, while simultaneously holding LaFayette to just 12 and the Black-and-White suddenly found itself within five points of the lead, 66-61, to start the fourth and final period.
The momentum would continue to stay with the underdog home team throughout most of the fourth quarter. They would outscore LaFayette 17-6 in the first six minutes of the fourth to take an improbable 78-72 lead as the Ridgeland faithful roared its approval.
But staring its first region loss of the year squarely in the face, LaFayette responded as drives to the basket by Junior Barber and Jaylon Ramsey would cut into the Ridgeland lead. Aidan Hadaway would draw a foul with 32.5 seconds to go and made 1 of 2, but he would get his own offensive rebound and put it back in to put LaFayette back in front, 79-78, with just under 30 seconds to play.
Following a Ridgeland miss on the other end, Barber drove to the basket for a transition lay-up that put the Ramblers up 81-78 as the clock ticked under 10 seconds to play. However, Kobe Lewis - donning jersey No. 24 for the game - got free in the corner and found nothing but net on a Bryant-esque 3-pointer with just three seconds left the tie the game at 81 to send it to overtime.
However, LaFayette senior post player Asa Deal would connect on a 3-point play just 46 seconds into the extra session. He would add an offensive put-back with 3:01 to play and knocked down 1 of 2 free throws 30 seconds after that to boost the Ramblers' lead to 87-81.
Kyan Clark, who scored 13 points in the big third quarter, hit his seventh and final 3-pointer of the night for the Panthers with 2:27 remaining to cut the LaFayette lead back to three points, but that would be as close as Ridgeland would get the rest of the way.
Barber scored five points in the final 2:06 as the Ramblers ended the game on a final 9-2 run. Deal also got a big bucket down the stretch off a nice feed from Ramsey with just 25 seconds to go to help seal the victory.
Deal finished with 25 points for LaFayette. Decameron Porter had 24 in the victory, despite fouling out in the fourth quarter, while Hadaway went for 23 points. Barber finished with 19 and Ramsey scored five, but had several key steals and rebounds late in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
Clark had a season-high 27 points and Lewis, fittingly, went for 24, followed by 20 from Chris Turner. Jordan McLin and Ethan Moyer had six points apiece and Kai Johnson finished the night with three.
LaFayette girls 68, Ridgeland 31
The Lady Ramblers got a career-high 21 points from senior Nicky Yancy in a win over their county rivals in the night's first game. Yancy also finished with three rebounds, three steals and three assists.
LaTyah Barber had 15 points to go with 11 assists, four steals and two blocks for the Lady Ramblers (14-9, 6-6). Mykeria Johnson had 11 points and Heather Tucker finished with seven. Savanna Hall scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Marquila Howell, Anna Valle, Imani Cook, Haynie Gilstrap and Haven Yancy all added two apiece.
Annabel Hill scored 10 points for the Lady Panthers (4-20, 1-11). Macie Boren added six points, while Katieann Thompson and Madison Lennon had four points apiece. Ridgeland got three from Kia Wade and two each from Justice Turner and Cordasia Watkins to round out the scoring.
Ridgeland will travel to Dade County this Saturday for games at 3 and 4:30 p.m. The doubleheader will be make-ups of games that were postponed back on Jan. 11. LaFayette's regular season is over and they will not take the court again until the 6-AAAA tournament gets underway next week at Southeast Whitfield.