The Eagles were able to knock down 12-of-14 free throws in the final quarter to keep in front and come away with the victory 52-40.
"I think we were 40 percent from the line in the first half and then we were able to come through," South Putnam head coach Lindsey Blackman said. "Amanda Barnes was big at the free throw line stepping in there in her first year on varsity to have those nerves. We're proud of her and the way she performed."
Barnes went eight-for-eight at the line in the fourth quarter and finished the contest with 12 points.
Blackman said she knew her team would be in a battle with North Putnam prior to tip-off and the ensuing game didn't disappoint.
"That was a tough one," Blackman said. "We knew going in it would be a hard-fought battle. They're a physical team, they're aggressive and we were ready for it, but it kind of caught us off guard in the first half. It took us a while to slow down, control the tempo and we were able to get some things going."
South Putnam grabbed the lead early in the contest, but a hard-playing North Putnam squad kept things close and tied the ball game up when Samantha Lucas hit a bucket with 21 second remaining in the opening quarter.
Eagle senior Mattie Varvel pushed the Eagles back in front as she connected on a long three-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 12-9. The teams stayed locked in a tug of war battle, trading buckets back and going to the break with South Putnam up 23-21.
The third quarter saw the Eagles jump out to a 27-23 lead to start, but North Putnam dug in its heels and refused to give in. The quarter ended similar to the first, with Lucas hitting a bucket to tie the game at 30-all and Varvel breaking that tie with a basket of her own before the horn sounded.
North Putnam continued to be aggressive and attack the Eagles, but every time they would make some progress, the Eagles found a way to respond.
Down the stretch, free throw proved to be the difference in the contest. Three free throws by Aubrey Nichols late in the contest sealed the win for the Eagles.
North Putnam head coach Curtis Lawrence, while disappointed in the loss, was happy with the effort his team gave.
"I'm very impressed with the effort my team put out tonight," Lawrence said. "That's the hardest they've played all year. We still had too many turnovers, which cost us the game, but overall -- our coaching staff is ecstatic with how they played tonight.
"When we got down eight or nine and I called a quick timeout and the girls responded really well and got some buckets and got back into it. They were right in that game right up until the end, so that's all you can ask for as a coach."
Neither team has much time to think about Friday's outcome as they are back in action tonight. North Putnam will face Cloverdale in the consolation game, while South Putnam will tangle with the Tiger Cubs, a rematch of last year's Putnam County Tournament final.
"This is a position we wanted to be in. We knew going into it that having won last year we have a little tiny target on our back and people would be gunning for us. We got through the first test and we are ready for the second one," Blackman said.
The consolation game begins at 6:30 p.m., with the championship game to follow.
At South Putnam
Putnam County Tournament
North Putnam 9 12 9 10 -- 40
South Putnam 12 11 9 20 -- 52
North Putnam -- Lucas 16, Smith 10, Asbell 5, Wiatt 4, Land 3, Aynes 2. Totals 13-39 FG, 13-18 FG, 40 TP.
South Putnam -- Varvel 15, Masters 12, Barnes 12, Nichols 10, Cash 3. Totals: 12-44 FG, 19-27 FG, 52 TP.