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Highway robbery
Steals rally Bulldogs past South
sf vs ng boys bbll 3 es
South Forsyth’s Chris Rowley drives past North Gwinnett’s Alex Tiller during the War Eagles’ loss to the Bulldogs on Tuesday at North Gwinnett. - photo by Emily Saunders
South Forsyth was in prime position to escape with a hard-fought road win Tuesday, leading by three on North Gwinnett’s floor with under a minute to play.

The Bulldogs had other ideas.

North Gwinnett came up with two huge turnovers in the waning seconds and scored the last five points of the game, coming back to steal a 44-42 win on senior night.

“We were in position to win the game at the end, and I don’t know. ... You don’t win, how do you explain it?” a mystified coach David Sokol wondered afterward.

The way things went to pieces for South did seem to defy explanation. Nearing the end of a gritty fourth quarter, the War Eagles (9-15 overall, 7-10 Region 7-AAAAA) had backed up a solid defensive effort with some opportunistic scoring, going up 42-39 inside the final minute when Derek Zittrauer (game-high 15 points) followed a North Gwinnett turnover with a lay-in off the glass.

South seemed to dodge a bullet right after that, when the Bulldogs’ Kyle Branch was fouled on a three-point attempt at the other end, giving him three free throws to tie the game with 33 ticks left. Branch only hit one of the three, leaving South with a two-point edge and an inbounds underneath the Bulldog basket.

That’s when it all fell apart.

The Bulldogs stole the inbounds under their basket, with Clayton Williams (10 points) ending the possession on the free-throw line, hitting two shots to tie the game with 21 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds, South got the ball in, but ended up throwing it away near midcourt, giving the Bulldogs an unlikely chance to go on top. The home team took advantage of the opportunity, as Williams hit a layup with seven seconds left.

Zittrauer got a layup attempt at the buzzer to tie, but the ball didn’t drop, setting off a celebration for the Bulldogs.
Sokol looked for bright spots, crediting Ronnie Rolle for some solid defensive play and Zittrauer for an all-around good effort. Nick Grant had 11 points for South.

Travis Techo led North Gwinnett with 12 points.

With only one regular season game left at Norcross tonight, South won’t have much time to put the result behind them and avoid any hangover effect going into the region tournament.

“You always worry about that, especially when you’re not having a winning season,” Sokol said.
“Good thing is it’s a new day tomorrow.”