DALTON, Ga. — With every Caleb Storey free throw made in the final seconds Saturday evening, Northwest Whitfield forward O'Shea Hill knew his team was inching closer to its first-ever region championship.
When the buzzer sounded, the team -- and fans -- savored the moment.
Using a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter, the Bruins were able to hold off rival Dalton, claiming a 69-62 victory on the Catamounts' home floor in the Region 7-AAAA championship game.
"We knew it was going to be a loud atmosphere. We just had to tune it out and play," said Hill, who scored 16 points. "It's exciting to get this win. It's hard to beat any team three times -- especially your rival.
"It's the first time we've hosted a state playoff game; we're expecting a lot of people."
The Northwest girls weren't as fortunate, as River Ridge (20-8) had a big third quarter and cruised to a 72-47 win over the Lady Bruins. River Ridge's Jordan Livesay had 20 points, while Jessica Baker had 19 points, including four of her five 3s in the decisive third quarter.
Halle Ford and Autumn Blackwell had 15 and 13 points to lead the Lady Bruins (19-8).
"We lost the shooters in the third quarter," Northwest girls coach Greg Brown said. "They got hot and we never responded. We kept playing hard, but you have to give [River Ridge] credit."
The Northwest teams both host home playoff games and will have a doubleheader Wednesday, with the Lady Bruins playing Atlanta Marist at 6 p.m. and the boys playing Grady at 7:30.
The Dalton boys will host Atlanta Marist in a Class AAAA playoff game.
Dalton built a nine-point lead a minute into the third quarter, but Northwest (23-3) rallied, with a 9-1 run to take a two-point lead late in the period. The game went into the fourth quarter tied at 41 after a reverse layup by Rico Mears with five seconds left in the period.
The tide changed early in the fourth quarter of the boys' game when Dalton's Alex Bautista was whistled for his fourth foul.
"When he goes out, that's the key," Dalton coach Mike Duffie said. "He's our pressure ball-handler."
Northwest applied pressure for 84 feet all game long. At times there were steals and Bruin layups, but when the Catamounts broke the pressure -- which they did a lot -- they shot layups and drew fouls.
"Early on, we were leaving the basket and giving up a lot of layups," Northwest coach Ryn Richards said. "Once we were able to fix that, things went a lot smoother.
"It was a tough place to have to play a region championship at -- on your opponents' floor -- but we got the job done."
Storey led the Bruins with 19 points, and Tanner Quarles matched Hill's point total. Bautista had 19 points to lead Dalton (19-7), while Mears had 14 and Demond Rucker added 13.