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Upset slips away from Central
No. 4-ranked Marist avoids first region loss
Forsyth Central point guard Rachael Tomlinson goes for the ball against Marist on Tuesday at home. - photo by Jared Putnam
Forsyth Central came within 2.3 seconds of doing what no team from the lower 48 states has done this season: win against Marist.

A 24-4 run brought the Lady Bulldogs back from an early 13-point deficit, but after a back-and-forth final quarter, Whitney Hagan dropped in the deciding basket and gave the No. 4-ranked Lady War Eagles a 56-55 victory on Tuesday in the Dawg Pound.

Apart from a pair of losses to two Hawaii-based opponents earlier in the season, Marist (22-2 overall, 12-0 Region 6-AAAA) had won every other game by at least four points coming into the matchup with Central (14-7, 8-4).

“I’m just really proud of the girls and I couldn’t really ask for more. We put up a good fight and we came back,” Lady Bulldogs’ senior point guard Rachael Tomlinson said.

“I think we really just got a big momentum, because after we started making shots, we couldn’t stop, and we had our fans cheering us on.”

Central had four players in double figures, as Caylin Davenport (15 points), Christy Hewatt (14), Tomlinson (13) and Kayla Richards (11) combined to score all but two of the team’s points.

The Lady Bulldogs fell behind 30-17 late in the second quarter, but roared back by limiting Marist to only four more points until the start of the fourth quarter. By that time, Central had established a 41-34 lead.

“We used our energy on defense to really turn it up on offense. I bet there isn’t a team in the country that’s held Marist to four in a quarter,” Central coach Andy Martin said of his team’s third period performance.

But the Lady War Eagles discovered their three-point shot in the final frame and used it to tie the game 47-all with 3:23 left to play.

The teams traded baskets down the stretch, and neither ever led by more than two points the rest of the way.

Central trailed 54-52 until Christy Hewatt tied things up on a pair of free throws with 31.9 seconds remaining, then the Lady Dawgs drew an intentional foul as Marist attempted to play for the last shot. The move  payed off when Megan Cox missed both free throws for the Lady War Eagles with 14.9 on the clock.

Hewatt quickly found herself back on the free throw line with 12.6 ticks to go and hit the first, but missed on her second attempt.

Hagan (14 points) then got open under the hoop on the ensuing possession and dropped in the winning basket.
Jenn Heider led Marist with 18 points, while Tesia Davis added 11.

The Lady Bulldogs will go for their ninth region victory in the regular season finale on Friday, a dramatic improvement after back-to-back seasons in which the team did not defeat a region opponent.

“It’s awesome. People around school are constantly patting you on the back, and we’ve never had that before,” Tomlinson said.

“We’ve worked so hard, I’m so glad we’ve earned it.”

Central faces Chamblee on Friday in the Dawg Pound. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.