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West girls drop 'dogfight'
Flowery Branch rides 15-0 stretch to victory
West Forsyth’s Shaeem McLaren puts up a shot against Flowery Branch on Tuesday in The Den. - photo by Jared Putnam
West Forsyth's girls have made a habit of bringing things down to the wire.

Three days after an overtime win over Alpharetta, the Lady Wolverines returned to subregion action by hosting Flowery Branch in a 44-42 loss.

"I think every game that we're going to be in is going to be a dogfight for us. We're not way better than anybody else, and we're not that far behind anybody else, either," West coach Dennis Benedict said.

West (8-9 overall, 2-3 Region 7B-AAA) held a 28-19 lead in the third quarter before surrendering a 15-0 run to the Lady Falcons. From there, the teams remained within a hair's width to the end.

The Falcons regained a lead late in the fourth quarter when a Janine Glenn basket made things 43-42.

Benedict was hit with a technical foul not long after, following an angry outburst when West's Kelsey Baker was whistled for a charging foul on a shot.

"I had enough. When I see two kids go for the ball and they're both banging each other, and you pick my kid [for a foul], I've got a problem with that," said Benedict.

The coach acknowledged that the timing of the technical wasn't the best, but it wasn't a fatal mistake. Flowery Branch hit one of two free throws after the foul, then missed both shots after West was forced to foul on the Falcons' ensuing automatic possession.

"It was not a good time, perhaps, to get it. Maybe I should have done something like that earlier, but there were too many things that I thought that we should have got some sort of call on that we didn't. It's part of the game," the coach said.

After the free throw attempts, West got the ball back with six seconds left. Baker snared the crucial board to give the Wolverines a final shot, then took that shot herself at the other end, but the 44-42 score would hold up for the Falcons.

"We hurt ourselves way too much. We were timid bringing the ball up the floor, we were timid on the boards," Benedict said.

"We did some nice things to get ahead and that was impressive, but when you keep passing the other team the basketball, it doesn't take long to get back in, which has been our Achille's heel."

Jessica Harper led all scorers with 19 points for the Falcons. Clare Tyler had 10 for the visitors.

Kelsey Turchi led West with 18, while Baker had 10.

The Wolverines are on the road for two games this weekend, visiting West Hall Friday and Alpharetta Saturday.

Rivalry game slips away from West

The final score doesn't really tell the tale from Tuesday's game at West Forsyth.

The Wolverines hung tough with visiting Flowery Branch deep into the fourth quarter, before the Falcons were able to pull away down the stretch and fly away with a 44-34 win.

Duke Mullis, making his first trip back to West after swapping the Wolverines' head coaching job for the same position at Flowery Branch, was impressed with how his former players have come along in the year since he left.

"The progress they've made, the growth individually and as a team, is just pretty amazing. I mean, Coach [Chris] Roy's done an outstanding job here and they've made this place a tough place to win for an opponent," Mullis said.

"It was fun. I just feel happy to get out of here with a win."

West (9-8 overall, 2-3 Region 7B-AAA) held only one lead, at 10-8 in the first quarter. Still, the Wolverines never got left in the dust and saw the game tied four times, including at the end of each of the first two quarters.

After falling behind 31-23 in the fourth, West went on an 8-0 run to tie things again, with a Kris Drees three-pointer knotting the score at 31.

Flowery Branch regained the lead when Josh Barrett hit a three-pointer off an inbounds pass, and the Falcons stayed on top from there. The visitors used some physical play to get to the free throw line several times late in the game, and hit 10-of-12 attempts during that stretch, while West stayed cold from the field when it mattered most.

"I thought it was a hard-fought game, both teams played their hearts out, and it just came down to  couple of plays, and they executed theirs a little bit better than we did," Roy said.

"You've got to give Coach Mullis and his staff and team credit for executing."

Roy, who was elevated to head coach in the offseason after Mullis' departure, said coaching against his old boss was essentially like any other day at the office.

"It's nice to see him and we talk a bunch, but we treated it just like every other game we've played this year — focus on what's going on between the lines and try to take care of business."

Flowery Branch didn't land any player in double figures, but four scorers led the Falcons with eight points each: Barrett, Phillips Chau, Ishmael Hollis and Kyle Smith.

Shaeem McLaren led all scorers with 10 points for West. Drees had eight points for the Wolverines.

The Wolverines are on the road for two games this weekend, visiting West Hall Friday and Alpharetta Saturday.