AMERICUS -- Americus-Sumter head coach Evelyn Wright didn't know just how red-hot Dougherty High was coming into Friday night.
The Lady Trojans were riding an eight-game win streak and hadn't received a loss in over a month.
"I didn't know that," Wright said after her Lady Panthers ended Dougherty's streak with a 52-45 win. "OK, well they got one (now)."
Americus-Sumter stormed the court and bolted out to a 35-12 halftime lead, all but announcing they were the team to challenge Region 1-AAA unbeaten and Herald No. 1 Westover for the region title.
But Dougherty wasn't quite finished. The Lady Trojans (10-3, 3-2 Region 1-AAA) outscored Americus, 13-4, in the third quarter and cut the lead to six, 51-45, on Kiandra Guilford's 3 with 11 seconds to play.
"I told (the team we would) just show them something different in the third quarter," Wright said of her halftime plans. "I didn't mean (for them to) not score."
Dougherty won the second half 33-17, but it was too little, too late for the rally after Lady Panthers senior and Super 6er Jayme Gilbert, who sat for six minutes in the third with foul trouble, returned to score 12 of her game-high 25 points in the second half.
"We pretty much played a perfect first half," said Wright, whose team hosts Lee County today and then welcomes Westover on Tuesday for a first-place showdown. "We held on the second half just enough to win. It doesn't take but one point to win."
Dougherty junior forward Jayla Hooper led the Lady Trojans' comeback with all 11 of her points coming in the second half.
"If we would have come out (to start the game) with the fight we had in the second half, we would have won," Hooper said.
The Lady Trojans' major hiccup Friday was free throws. Dougherty went 13-for-39 at the foul line.
"We practice those every day," said Hooper, one of the Lady Trojans' who shoots free throws one-handed to keep her off-hand from influencing the shot.
Gilbert, who also had five assists and five steals, and Hooper were the only scorers in double figures. The Lady Panthers (11-2, 4-1 Region 1-AAA) got eight points from Ashley Howard and 11 rebounds and four steals from Adasjah Mercer.
Dougherty's next leading scorer was Jasmine Lavant, who chipped in eight. The Lady Trojans next host Worth County on Tuesday.
DOUGHERTY BOYS 58, AMERICUS-SUMTER 51:
The Trojans, led by Chris Holmes' 19 points, got a much-needed region win on the road Friday, despite a 20-point night by Panthers senior guard Lakista McCuller.
Americus' Brandon White hit a driving layup with 4:52 to play to slash the Dougherty lead to 47-43, but Holmes answered on the other end with two offensive rebounds and a lay-in, starting a 6-0 Trojans run that put the game away.
Dougherty center Tim Washington came up big in the fourth quarter with five rebounds and two blocks to help slow Americus.
"(The defense) was big (at the end), but we still need to rotate better," said Washington, who finished with three blocks and six points. "We left some shooters open."
Americus-Sumter (5-8, 1-4 Region 1-AAA) got 14 points and four steals from Javaris Hooks. Ralph Wilson finished with nine boards, while McCuller added five assists and four 3s.
"We got into some foul trouble and people had to play more minutes than normal," Panthers head coach Michael Coley said. "We were physically fatigued and we made mental errors several times."
Dougherty High Super 6er McArthur Gaines scored 15 in the win.