After trailing for the first 10 minutes of the second half, Cherokee (9-1) switched its defensive set from a zone defense to man-to-man, which seemed to stifle the offensive momentum River Ridge (4-5) had gained in the third.
After scoring 15 points in the third, the Lady Knights only managed seven in the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Lady Warriors had their best period yet with 25 points.
With key shots from Sara Byers, Christie Mixon and Morgan Darby giving Cherokee an eight-point lead with 2 minutes left in the game, River Ridge was forced to resort to fouling.
Cherokee then made the majority of its late free throws to put the game out of reach and pad the score of what was actually a close contest.
“We were fortunate to get some free throws down the stretch that we really needed,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said.
If the final 6 minutes of the game, Cherokee outscored River Ridge 20-4.
Cates credited the team’s all-around defensive performance late in the game for the victory.
“We changed defenses late in the second half,” he said. “Sometimes, we play our man-to-man well, and sometimes, it’s so-so. We just happened to play it well (Thursday). It took a complete team effort.”
Cates also singled out Mixon as a player that stood out on the night, as she finished the game with a team-high 13 points and hit three 3s.
Also breaking double digits for the Lady Warriors were Aunesha Williams with 12 points and Sara Byers with 10. Byers was also 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.
After an even first period that ended 10-8 in River Ridge’s favor, Cherokee came out the better of the two teams early in the second and rattled off a seven-point run to go up nine.
Soon after, Williams, who had provided the Lady Warriors with a solid defensive presence up to that point, found herself in foul trouble and was taken of the court.
It was then that the Lady Knights began to claw their way back into the game.
Down 21-16 with just over a minute remaining before the half, River Ridge suddenly found itself in front thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordan Livesay and Jessica Baker.
After a free throw from Cherokee’s Kiana Howell, the teams entered the break even at 22.
River Ridge picked up where it left offensively at the beginning of the third and jumped out to an eight-point lead.
But Cherokee soon climbed back into the game, and once the Lady Warriors took a 41-40 lead with just over 5 minutes remaining, they would never trailed again.
River Ridge coach Jason Taylor lamented the Lady Knights’ inability to finish the game off.
“We just folded under the pressure (Thursday),” he said. “The last 4 minutes of the ballgame, we went cold.
Livesay scored a game-high 19 points for the Lady Knights, while Baker finished the game with nine points and three 3s.