The hole was just a little too deep for Forsyth Central to climb out of.
Jeremy Long scored all but three of his game-high 24 points in the second half and helped narrow a 21-point deficit down to a single point, but the Bulldogs couldn’t complete the comeback in a 59-54 loss to North Springs on Friday in the Dawg Pound.
“I think there were some calls there that really hurt, but if we don’t have a [21-point] deficit at halftime, it’s different,” Central coach Steve Barnes said.
“We’ve had some bad first halves before, but [this one] was ... pretty indescribable.”
Central trailed 36-15 at halftime after North Springs reeled off a 24-5 run that began in the first quarter and lasted through most of the second.
“We came out with ... kind of a false effort, so to speak,” Barnes said. “Not smart at all, we couldn’t score, [weren’t] shooting with confidence, didn’t get a whole lot of shots and were letting them get layups.”
The Bulldogs found their rhythm after the break, though, and opened the third period on a 10-0 run.
Long scored 12 points in the third quarter on a quartet of three-pointers, as the Spartans’ lead shrank as low as six points before the period was over.
“Because of [him] making a few shots and shooting with confidence, that ignited everybody else and gave some hope,” Barnes said.
“Our guys sure came out [in the second half] with some pride, with some heart, winning effort and toughness,” Barnes said.
The Bulldogs continued to whittle away until Steven Davis (17 points) dropped in a layup to narrow the gap to 51-50 with 2:31 to play. Dustin Canon later hit a layup of his own to bring the deficit down to one point, 53-52, for a second time, but Central could get no closer.
North Springs led 57-54 when Long was called for traveling on a three-point attempt with only 9.7 seconds on the clock, and an intentional foul on the Spartans’ ensuing possession sent point guard Brandon Brownlee to the line for a pair of successful free throws that pushed the lead back to five with only 8.1 seconds left.
Rico Sanders led North Springs with 20 points.
Central is back in action on Tuesday at Lakeside. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.