Ninth-ranked Chestatee reeled off eight unanswered points against East Forsyth in the final 45 seconds of the third quarter to carry all of the momentum into the final period Tuesday at Extra Mile Arena.
Given the adversity that the Broncos have been forced to overcome this season, the War Eagles' run seemed like small potatoes.
Even with the rough end to the third, East Forsyth held a 51-46 lead. While Chestatee got within four points late, Ella Holbrook sank four free throws in the final 40 seconds to close out a 66-58 victory.
“We have played this way at times, but we’ve been inconsistent,” Broncos head coach Mike Hedrick said of his team's third win of the year over a ranked opponent. “There’s a lot of reasons for that. Alison Hiddema is a big hit, but we’ve also had other injuries. We’re in a region where it feels like every night is the old Big East for our talent level.
“I was really proud of how focused we were on the scout. There was a lot of scouting that went into that game, and we handled it like a college team.”
One of the biggest components to the scouting report was freshman Hailey Hiddema guarding Chestatee's Riley Black — a junior who already has scored 1,000-plus points in her career.
“Hailey Hiddema stepped up,” Hedrick said. “She had Riley Black as the assignment. Riley had some buckets. She’s a good player for high school, and she is going to get hers. The way Hailey defended Riley and made her work all night, it changed the way Chestatee played offense. …
“We don’t win that game if Hailey Hiddema isn’t on the floor for us. I’m proud of the way she defended, because normally, she thinks she’s offense [only]. She took the assignment of Riley Black and gave us the chance to win and get that upset.”
To be fair, Hiddema still put together a solid offensive night, finishing with 13 points and a trio of 3-pointers.
Her final trey proved to be one of the biggest buckets of the night. Clinging to a 58-52 advantage, Hiddema received a pass from Adeline Rosebush in the corner before knocking down the triple.
Rosebush racked up 25 points — matching Black for the game-high in scoring — in a dominant performance for the East Forsyth senior post. Spanning the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third, Rosebush scored a dozen straight points for the Broncos.
“She’s finally starting to get healthy; she missed a lot of games before Christmas,” Hedrick said of Rosebush. “We still have to hold her out of practice some. She could have had 25-30 points for the past six or seven region games. …
“She got doubled, and she still finished. I’m incredibly proud of Adeline. I think she’s a first team all-region kid, along with Ella, because Adeline is someone no one else in the region has. She’s a force.”
Rosebush and Hiddema both fouled out in the closing minutes, putting the onus on Holbrook to finish off the Region 8-4A upset.
The senior did just that, hitting 4 of 6 foul shots in the final 38.6 seconds to complete an 11-for-14 performance at the charity stripe.
“It felt really great,” Holbrook said. “I’ve been in those situations a lot. It always feels good when you’re able to pull it out.”
In total, Holbrook recorded 23 points.
She racked up nine points in the opening stanza, as East Forsyth shot out to a 21-16 lead. Holbrook was fairly quiet from a scoring standpoint over the middle two periods, although she did finish off a 7-0 run to begin the second quarter that helped send the Broncos into halftime up 36-24.
“I really felt like Ella Holbrook, the whole night, was very composed,” Hedrick said. “It’s very easy for a player like her to feel like she has to be a hero and do too much. Tonight, she played hard and made good plays on both ends — but within herself.”
With the victory, East Forsyth improved to 10-11 overall. It's a somewhat misleading record, considering the Broncos have gone 5-2 since the start of the new year.
Even still, East Forsyth needed to down Chestatee, which won the teams' first meeting, to snap a two-game losing skid.
“I think we knew early on that we were going to face adversity,” Holbrook said. “We knew that we were going to have to do it, and we weren’t just going to give up early. We still have a long ways to go.
“We just have to stick together. We’ve had a lot of honest conversations, and I think we’re really facing adversity well at this point.”
Another chance at a victory over a top-10 team will come Jan. 27, when the Broncos travel to No. 8 Walnut Grove.
After that, East Forsyth will close out the regular season with three straight home games, giving the Broncos a chance to enter the region tournament on a hot streak.
“In the locker room, we talked about how a win like this can change your entire season,” Hedrick said. “Everything we want is still in front of us. We can still be region champions. We can still get to Macon, as crazy as that sounds with 11 losses.
“We have a chance Friday to go to Walnut Grove and beat another state-ranked team on their court who is the No. 1 on the other side [of the sub-divided region]. Two wins like that is a statement that East is back, and we want that.”
Boys: Chestatee 63, East Forsyth 59
East Forsyth came up short of a miraculous comeback win over Chestatee in a Region 8-4A contest Tuesday at home.
The Broncos trailed by eight points with a minute to go and got back to within one possession before the War Eagles closed out a 63-59 victory at the foul line.
Down 60-52, Matthew Rouse laid the ball in. Seconds later, Bryce Bracco stole the ball and knocked down a 3-pointer to pull East Forsyth within three points.
However, a charging call flipped the momentum back to Chestatee, which went 3-for-4 at the charity stripe over the final 20 seconds.
In the opening quarter, the Broncos built a 17-14 lead. The War Eagles, who finished off a sweep of the season series, countered with a strong start to the second period before the hosts used an 8-0 burst to regain control.
Trailing 34-30 to start the second half, Chestatee began the third quarter on a 7-0 spurt. East Forsyth never led again.
After carrying a 50-44 lead into the fourth and scoring the opening basket of the quarter, the War Eagles saw the Broncos reel off their first of two quick 5-0 runs of the final stanza.
In a reversal of the later outburst, this one involved a Rouse trey and a Bracco layup.
Chestatee wrestled away the momentum by scoring the next four points ahead of a Bracco triple, and then the War Eagles scored four more in a row before the Broncos launched one final push.
Bracco led East Forsyth with 16 points. Mitchell Dunlap contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Davey Hyams added 10 points, including hitting two free throws in the final seconds to momentarily pull the Broncos within 62-59.
East Forsyth (9-12, 5-6) will look to bounce back Jan. 27 at Walnut Grove.