The Ringgold Lady Tigers will open the Class 3A state tournament this weekend. However, they will do so as the No. 2 seed from Region 6 after falling to Sonoraville, 53-43, in a battle of state-ranked teams for the region championship Monday night at North Murray High School.
Ringgold scored the first four points of the game and looked to be off and running. But a combination of cold shooting and tough defense by the Lady Phoenix would spell trouble for the Blue-and-White.
Sonoraville would end the quarter on a 15-2 run to take a nine-point lead and they would go on to a 24-10 advantage at halftime as the Lady Tigers adjourned to the locker room to regroup.
Slowly but surely, the Ringgold offense begin to find its range late in the third quarter, but only after the Lady Phoenix had ballooned their lead out to 20 points at 38-18.
The Lady Tigers began to try and chip away at the lead over the last eight minutes of the game. A nice play by Maggie Reed in traffic resulted in a lay-up that chopped the deficit down to 40-31 with 5:18 to play.
But Ringgold was never able to completely get over the hump. After Sonoraville briefly pushed its advantage back to 13 points with 2:30 to go, Ringgold would score six straight to pull within seven points of the lead on a 3-pointer by Sydney Pittman with 1:25 left. However, the Lady Phoenix would hit their free throws down the stretch and go on to claim the title.
"Sonoraville came out and made everything they threw up there, especially in that first quarter," Ringgold head coach Margaret Stockburger said. "They're a really good tournament team and we knew that it was going to be that way, but we just dug a hole for ourselves (in the first quarter).
"I'm very proud of the girls for how they fought back, especially in the third and fourth quarters, because they could have just layed down, but they didn't. They showed that grit in the second half and hopefully they'll continue to build on that."
Ringgold got 12 points from Rachel Lopez and 11 from Rachel Akers. Reed finished with seven points. Pittman and Riley Nayadley had five points apiece, while Sarah Headrick added three.
Alexa Geary led Sonoraville with 22 points, including four made 3-pointers.
Ringgold (18-8) will host longtime playoff stalwart Hart County in the opening round this weekend, while Sonoraville will entertain Jackson County. Calhoun, who earned the third seed, will open the playoffs at Morgan County, while fourth-seeded Coahulla Creek will travel to Region 8 champion Jefferson.
"We get to host, which is always a plus," Stockburger added. "It's disappointing for (the players) and for us as coaches that we couldn't be region champions, but there's a lot of other teams that didn't even get a chance to play tonight."
The coach added that finding practice time would be difficult over the next couple of days because of inclement weather and weather-related school closings, but said that they would do their best to work around it as they get set to face the Lady Bulldogs from Hartwell, who have eight state championships all time to their credit.
"We just have to continue to work on some of our shooting and just all the things that deal with basketball," she said. "We'll know something about Hart County before we play them, so we'll just try to concentrate on what we need to do to get ready for them."