The Lakeside High School girls basketball team realized that Santa Claus wasn't responsible for fulfilling its top holiday request.
What Lakeside really wanted was a championship in the Columbia County Christmas Tournament - and they got their wish with a 41-40 victory over Greenbrier in the tournament finals Dec. 22 at the Lakeside gymnasium.
"It's a goal we set for ourselves," Lakeside coach Bill Richey said. "Winning a tight game against a very well-coached team like this can only help our confidence. The girls know we didn't play our best game and we still won."
Greenbrier opened the two-day tournament with a 44-22 win over Evans, while Lakeside advanced to the finale with a 56-28 romp against Harlem.
The Lady Pack and Lady Panthers were expected to square off in the title game, but in the first half Saturday, each squad did the unexpected.
Greenbrier was supposed to have a stronger inside game, but Lakeside managed a standoff under the boards, as each team hauled in 15 rebounds; the Lady Panthers, however, pulled in 13 offensive rebounds to Greenbrier's three. Erica Jansen powered for six first-half rebounds for Lakeside.
As a result, Lakeside offset poor shooting (7 for 31) from the field.
Lakeside was supposed to have superior three-point shooters, but Greenbrier's Amy Rigdon was 3-for-3 on threes, while the Lady Panthers were just 1 for 8.
As a result, Greenbrier built a 27-20 halftime lead.
"They took it to us in the first half, and I didn't know if we'd come back out and not be flat," Richey said. "I talked to them at halftime and tried to set goals; one of the goals was to be tied at the end of the third quarter - and we were."
Jansen and Jamie Lake contributed to the rally with strong defensive pressure, as Rigdon's three-pointer was Greenbrier's only successful shot from the field in the third quarter, which finished in a 30-30 deadlock.
Offensively, Lakeside guards Coard and Bennett keyed the one-point win by combining for 19 of their team's 21 second-half points.
"Nichole and Toya played smart and showed some presence - that's why we won," Richey said.
Coard hit the game-winning bucket with 11.2 seconds to play, while Bennett finished as the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Kim Leeds helped seal the win by applying pressure on the Lady Pack's final push down court.
Ultimately, though, Greenbrier's quest for a Christmas tournament repeat was derailed by 31 turnovers and foul troubles; still, Lady Wolfpack coach Garrett Black was satisfied with his team's effort.
"I'm a little disappointed for the kids because I felt like they gave it everything they had tonight," Black said. "We're a little inexperienced at the guard position, and we got in foul trouble, but we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. That's all I can ask of the kids."
Columbia County Christmas Tournament
First round: Greenbrier 44, Evans 22; leading scorers - Greenbrier, Lindsey Sutherland (9) and Erica Johnson (9), Evans, Taylar Stallings (6). Lakeside 56, Harlem 28; leading scorers - Lakeside, Nichole Bennett (17), Harlem, Laura Tam (16).
Consolation game: Evans 52, Harlem 33; leading scorers - Evans, Kiley Smith (10) and Ashley Brodhecker (10), Harlem, Tam (11).
Championship game: Lakeside 41, Greenbrier 40; leading scorers - Lakeside, Toya Coard (17), Greenbrier, Amy Rigdon (12).
All-tournament team: Evans - Kiley Smith; Harlem - Laura Tam; Greenbrier - Erica Johnson; Lakeside - Toya Coard; Lakeside - Nichole Bennett, Most Valuable Player.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.