North Forsyth’s boys wouldn’t let the ‘Cats claw back into the game.
The Raiders took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter and survived a run by Duluth’s Wildcats, holding on for a 61-55 win Tuesday in Coal Mountain.
North coach Bobby Pless said his team played well for three quarters, but ran into trouble with complacency in the final frame.
“We started standing around and not coming to the ball when Duluth extended some pressure,” Pless said.
“We worked — Monday in practice — on four ball handlers being guarded by six defenders to [learn to handle] Duluth’s press ... but we kind of went to sleep, and Duluth made a run to cut the lead to four.”
But led by a team-high 18 points from Riley Smith, the Raiders maintained their composure in the final minutes.
“I’m proud of how the guys responded in the final two minutes by being poised and realizing the openings, and we were able to keep the lead and use the clock and foul shots to our advantage,” Pless said.
“It’s so important to have five players who can handle the ball and read the situation, and after we settled down, we took care of the ball and closed out the game.
Shane Rapson added 15 points, while Nathan Smith had 14 and Eli Chester chipped in nine to go along with and nine rebounds.
“Nathan Smith got the first quarter off to a good start by scoring seven points and attacked the basket to set an aggressive tone for us. Nathan is really starting to let the game come to him and not force it,” Pless said.
“He has had two good games, back-to-back, and makes us stronger along with Eli getting more comfortable after football season.”