Where some might see impossibly tight coverage, Sutton Smith saw opportunity.
Tasked with inbounding the ball in the second half of Friday's game against North Forsyth, Smith decided to take matters into his own hands. Denmark's point guard passed the ball, but it wasn't to a teammate. Instead, the ball deflected off a North player, allowing Smith to scoop up the ball, put up the shot and watch it fall through the net.
"The defender completely turned his head and was focused, so Sutton just putt it off his rear end, went back in and got it, then hit the 3. That's just a high basketball IQ play," Denmark boys basketball coach Tyler Whitlock said. "It just shows how well he knows the game."
Smith led all scorers with 29 points as Denmark picked up its first region win of the new year with a 61-45 victory against North. Smith connected on four 3-pointers and served as a catalyst for Denmark's offense, collecting 20 points before halftime.
"He really established us when we were struggling offensively in the second quarter," Whitlock said. "It came at the right time, that's for sure."
North raced out to a 15-12 lead after the first quarter behind strong shooting from DJ Hyams and Braden Mullis, who each logged an early 3-pointer.
Mullis traded 3-pointers with Smith in the second quarter, with his first trey handing the Raiders their largest lead of the game — four points. Smith answered right back with a 3 of his own, one Mullis matched on the following possession.
But Smith tacked on two more in a matter of minutes, allowing Denmark to pull ahead and end the half on a 12-2 run.
"We were getting people open on offense, setting screens," North head coach David Sokol said. "I thought we read the screen well. We moved and moved the ball, and we got some good looks by doing that. I thought we got away from that in the third quarter. They made some adjustments and we didn't do a good job of defending the ball screen tonight."
Aidan Kudlas was a constant for North on offense and led the Raiders with 17 points.
However, Denmark began to settle in during the third quarter, with Joseph Scott converting mid-range jumpers and scoring at the rim. Scott was also a menace on defense, limiting the Raiders' chances in the paint.
Scott, who finished with 18 points, carried Denmark into the fourth quarter with a dunk that was emblematic of the Danes' physical third quarter.
The dunk followed a Zach Brown 3-pointer, which was set up by a block at the rim by Ryan Brewer.
Lucas Garabadian also had a 3-pointer to mark six treys for Denmark.
It was a welcomed performance for Whitlock, whose Danes suffered a four-game skid at the hands of some of the top teams in the state — Archer, Berkmar, Cedar Shoals and Milton — during the holiday break.
"I think we're struggling to score the basketball over the last three games we've played," Whitlock said. "On Saturday, I think we ended up scoring 30-something points. We came out Tuesday night in the first quarter and only scored six. We came out tonight and I think we might have been right into the double digits, barely over it. I think for us, we have to come out with confidence. I think we're kind of trying to feel the game out versus coming out and playing the way we know how to play. I'll tell you what, in practice, they get after each other and they play with confidence to prove themselves. They don't seem to have an issue in practice, so we've got to translate that into the game."
Denmark (9-5, 3-1 Region 6-7A) played arguably its best game of the season last month when the Danes pushed top-ranked Milton to overtime in a 72-68 loss.
Whitlock said he believes Denmark is finding its rhythm ahead of the season's second half.
North (4-11, 0-4 Region 6-7A) has been tantalizingly close this season — the Raiders scored 86 points in a loss to Lambert and fell in overtime to Forsyth Central — but is still searching for its first region win.
"I thought they did a good job setting ball screens," Sokol said. "We came into the game wanting to defend it one way, and they did a good of figuring out what we were doing, so we switched it again. But they've got a good point guard that knows what to do when those sort of things happen. It's always good to have another coach on the floor."