Down 29-23 in the closing minutes of the game, the Lady Lions went on a 15-5 run and rallied to beat Athens Academy 38-34 in the Region 8-A tournament Wednesday at Lakeview Academy.
The win sends Lakeview (16-6) to the tournament semifinals, and guarantees it a place in the Class A state tournament for the sixth straight year.
"I knew it (the game) would be close," Lady Lions coach Buster Brown said. "You have to give Athens Academy credit, that’s the best they’ve shot all year."
Lakeview struggled to score inside the paint for the majority of the game relying on 3-point shooting (the Lady Lions were 6-of-24 from beyond the arc), and stellar free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter.
"We played Athens Academy last week, and every time we went inside they blocked our shot," Brown said. "The kids were definitely thinking about that."
Meanwhile, the Lady Spartans scored steadily inside the paint, rushing up the court quickly and darting through holes at the Lakeview post. Fourteen of their 25 points through the first three quarters came off field goals, as compared to Lakeview’s two field goals.
Athens Academy held a small lead for most of the game.
"Going into the game, we knew we’d have trouble at the post," Brown said. "If we tried to attack inside, we’d be intimidated."
Despite defensive issues at the post, the Lady Lions never fell behind more than six points, which happened early in the fourth quarter.
It was then that Lakeview began chipping away at the Lady Spartans’ lead, mainly from the free-throw line.
Brittany Moore shot 5-for-6 from the free throw line during the fourth quarter and Maddie Haymore was 4-for-6.
Moore finished the game with a team-high 19 points
"Brittany (Moore) had a fire in her eye tonight," Brown said. "If it wasn’t for her shooting outside, we’d be in trouble."
The result was a complete Lakeview turnaround, as the Lady Lions drew fouls and scored their last seven points from the free-throw line.
Trailing by six only two minutes earlier, Lakeview tied the game at 31 with three minutes left to play, then took the lead a minute later off Haymore’s two made free throws.
"The free-throw shooting has be pretty good the last couple of games," Brown said. Haymore also scored in double figures for Lakeview with 10 points.
Samantha Beasley led Athens Academy with 14 points. Kelly Foster grabbed 10 rebounds for the Lady Spartans.
Lakeview visits No. 2 seed Social Circle at 4 p.m. Friday. The two teams split a series during the regular season.
"Social Circle is playing their best game right now," Brown said. "But whatever it takes to win, we’ll do it."