Ripley (27-4) led 16-5 at the end of one quarter by forcing eight turnovers, including five steals. Three of those were by Dandy Dozen selection Jayla Chills, who scored five of its first seven points. Belmont was held scoreless until the 3:43 mark of opening quarter.
Chills finished with seven steals and led all scorers with 22 points.
The Lady Tigers built as much as a 23-10 lead on a Chills free throw early in the second quarter before Belmont got back in the game by forcing their own turnovers and making foul shots. Belmont hit 8 of 10 shots from the line to trail 27-20 at the break.
The Lady Cardinals were 23 of 29 from the charity stripe.
Belmont closed to within 28-24 on buckets from Natasha Jones and Katelyn Nunley. The teams went back and forth before Kela Powell made a jumper to tie the game at 33 with 2:49 to play. Powell led Belmont (20-9) with 16 points and Nunley added 12.
Following a Ripley timeout, the Lady Tigers went on a 9-3 run to close the third. Six points came from Matavia Cox, including a driving layup to lead 42-36. Cox had 12 bench points.
“We were fouling in the first half and gave them points from the free throw line and in the second half they got in the lane and really penetrated to make a run,” said Ripley coach Katie Bates.
Chills scored 11 points in the fourth. Her two free throws with 5:59 to play made it 46-36. Two more free throws by the senior guard gave Ripley its biggest lead of the game at 56-43 with two minutes to play.
“We were down, but we came back and got into the rhythm of what I wanted them to do,” said Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom. “The thing that changed is we just got out of sync.”
We just lost focus.”