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Basketball: Central wins play-in game to open Region 6-7A tournament
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Forsyth Central senior Mac Lally, right, drives toward the basket Friday during the Bulldogs' 50-44 win against North Forsyth. - photo by David Roberts

Forsyth Central is in. 

The Bulldogs extended their season Friday with a 50-44 victory against North Forsyth in a play-in game to determine the final team in to the Region 6-7A tournament.

One more win and Central will lock up a playoff spot.

"I think it speaks a lot about our seniors," Central head coach Brandon Hutchins said. "Our seniors have battled and stuck with it. You know, we've had a crazy year and have been shut down twice. I think they finally put it all together tonight. The whole team played together like we know they can play. They battled for 32 minutes. I'm just happy for our team."

Senior Dylan Carter led the Bulldogs with 14 points, helping Central establish control early with nine first-half points.

North's first two field goals of the night were 3-pointers — first from Matthew Rouse, then from Braden Mullis — but the Raiders converted only two more the rest of the game, partly because of Central's 1-2-2 zone defense.

Taking away North's outside shooting was pivotal, according to Hutchins.

"They've got shooters. They've got great shooters," he said. "So, we tried to get out on the shooters, and our guys bought in to it. They did a good job of playing and rebounding and matching their physicality."

Meanwhile, Central began to find its rhythm offensively, closing the half on an 11-3 run, fueled by a Carter 3-pointer and punctuated by a last-second layup by junior Cade Chitty.

Junior Eli Chol had three blocks in the first half and finished with six.

"He's come a long way. From where he was last year playing JV to where he is now, the sky's the limit," Hutchins said. "I keep telling him, 'You know, if you keep working and keep battling, [you've] got a chance to be a special player.'"

Senior Zach Koman played well off the bench in the second quarter, scoring four of his six points and collecting three rebounds before half. Chitty added 11 points and Graham Long scored eight.

North cut the deficit to one point in the second half, as the Raiders began to attack the basket and received strong guard play from junior Aidan Kudlas.

Held to only two points in the first half, Kudlas finished with 12 points and eight rebounds to lead the Raiders.

But Central's defense put the clamps on in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs held North without a point for more than 5 1/2 minutes. Kudlas' pull-up jumper with 2:23 remaining in the game snapped the skid and made it a 40-33 game.

Central was just 11 of 23 from the free-throw line but managed to outlast North on sheer volume of opportunities, scoring 10 their final 12 points from the charity stripe.

Friday's game marked Central's sixth game in 12 days. 

The Bulldogs will travel to Denmark at 6 p.m. Saturday, with the winner facing Gainesville in the semifinals. Denmark swept the regular-season series with Central this season, winning 60-40 and 69-39.

"The message to the guys is that we've got nothing to lose," Hutchins said. "We've got to go over there and play like our hair's on fire. If we play like we did tonight, I think we have a chance. Just battle and see what happens."