DULUTH — South Forsyth woke up from a sluggish first half to give Duluth all it wanted Friday night. In the end, the War Eagles needed just a little bit more, as the Wildcats caught some breaks late in overtime and prevailed at home, 59-55.
“We didn’t come out the first half at all. I’m disappointed in that, but I thought in the fourth quarter, [we showed] a lot of effort, [created] a lot of opportunities. Not just in the fourth quarter and overtime, the entire game we had opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them,” South coach David Sokol said.
The War Eagles (8-13 overall, 6-8 Region 7-AAAAA) trailed 24-15 after two quarters, then pretty much traded scores with Duluth in the third to head into the final period down 36-29.
Some increased pressure from the visitors seemed to get to Duluth in the fourth, allowing South to come back with a few timely buckets. The Eagles took two leads in the fourth, including a four-point sequence off a big Duluth turnover, which came with South trailing by two and under two minutes left.
Derek Zittrauer (12 points) ended up hitting the first of two free throws after a foul at the other end, then Spencer Haywood snared the rebound after the second attempt was no good, kicking the ball out to Jonathan Sauls (game-high 19 points), who knocked down a three-pointer to put South up 47-45 at around the 1:20 mark.
Armand Tatum (12 points) kept his team alive with a lay-in to tie the game at 47, which is where things stood after regulation ended.
The overtime was a nip-and-tuck affair with six lead changes, but the final minute belonged to Duluth. After Kevin Bibler hit two free throws to put South up 54-53 with 48 ticks left, Wildcat Haasan Nichols (11 points) drained a three-pointer to put his team up by two.
With the score still 56-54 for Duluth, Justin Eckard came up with a big steal and basket to essentially salt the game away around the 10-second mark, although the ‘Cats prolonged the suspense just a little by putting South on the line with a foul before the next inbounds play.
Even with the all-out effort late in the game, Sokol couldn’t overlook that a better first half might have negated the need for the overtime altogether.
“I think we’ll work on changing that as far as being prepared and ready to go,” the coach said.
“It’s got to be a sustained effort from the entire team the whole game, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Nick Grant scored 12 points to help boost South, nine of them in the second half.
Caesar Anyogu had 13 for Duluth.
South Forsyth (girls) 41, Duluth 66
The girls varsity game wasn’t nearly as suspenseful, as the Lady Wildcats essentially put things away by the end of the third quarter, holding a 52-23 advantage heading into the final period. South had a rough shooting night, hitting only four baskets in the first three quarters.
With several subs coming off the bench, South notched a respectable 18 points in the fourth quarter to tighten up the final count a bit. The Eagles fall to 3-11 in Region 7-AAAAA and 7-14 for the season.
South’s Stephanie Storms led all scorers with 16 points. Alex Shaw (12 points) and Daphne Adebayo (11) were the high scorers for Duluth.
Both South teams will seek a little inter-county payback on Tuesday, when North Forsyth visits the Eagles’ Nest.