Madison County won the one that counted -- convincingly.
The Lady Raiders beat Loganville 66-47 Saturday to claim their third region title in four years, dominating a Lady Red Devil team that handed them a rare lopsided loss during the regular season.
Loganville beat Madison County 64-47 back on Dec. 15.
“We felt that we owed them something,” junior post player Kayla Freeman said. “I mean, that’s probably the worst game we ever played.”
So was this Madison County’s best game?
“It almost feels like it,” said Freeman, who scored 16 points and earned all-tournament team honors. “But we had a good game. Everybody stayed focused. Everybody was intense. We played team ball.”
Madison County won all three of its region tournament games by double digits, with an average margin of victory of 18.3 points.
Against Loganville, the Lady Raiders started pulling away during a second quarter in which they outscored the Lady Red Devils 26-11. Madison County hit four 3-pointers during the period and led 34-18 at the half.
“Everything was just going together,” senior guard Shantydra Arnold said. “We were just moving the ball well, making our shots and easy shots. In transition, we did really well today (Saturday).”
Arnold finished with 22 points, one of three Lady Raiders in double figures.
Afterward, the team conspired to ambush coach Dan Lampe with the water cooler. Lampe, who had avoided getting drenched during Madison County’s previous title runs, wasn’t able to avoid the celebratory dousing this time.
But he didn’t mind getting a little wet. After all he’s been part of all three of those region championships, serving an assistant coach for the first and as head coach for the last two.
“It’s nice, yeah,” Lampe said. “Three out of four ain’t bad.”
It was a big night all-around for the region champions.
Senior guard Lauren Smith earned tournament MVP honors, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 boards. Smith hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter and had 13 points by halftime.
“I was hitting my shot, but I was also looking for my other teammates so they could get the opportunity to score, too,” Smith said.
While Madison County thrived offensively, Lampe credited the defense for sparking the Lady Raider win.
“We didn’t let them get into anything they wanted to do," Lampe said. "We clogged up the middle. We didn’t give them any dribble penetration. Took away the three’s. They played well.”
Lampe specifically pointed to the efforts of guard Juvonna Fleming, the team’s defensive specialist.
“Juvonna, defensively, just ate up all the help side,” he said. “She was there all the time.”
The team took the floor with a little added exuberance, too.
The Madison County boys’ team, which played in the consolation round prior to the girls’ game, beat Clarke Central with a buzzer-beating three from Bradley Raines.
Lampe said that got the girls “jacked” for their game, and Arnold agreed.
“I think the boys, when they beat Clarke Central with that three, it pumped like everybody up,” Arnold said. “When Bradley hit that three, we were like ‘we’ve got to do good.’ We’ve got to win.”
Now the state tournament awaits Madison County.
The team, which has two Sweet 16s and a Final Four over the last three years on its résumé, hopes it can maintain the same level of play it enjoyed in dominating the field at region.
“We came together as a team,” Smith said. “We had one goal: win region, go to state.”