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Basketball: Dabo's late shot caps Central girls' thrilling overtime win over West
aisha dabo central west 121418
Forsyth Central's Aisha Dabo drives to the basket during the Bulldogs' game against West Forsyth on Dec. 14, 2018 at West Forsyth High School. Dabo would hit the basket in overtime that gave Central the decisive lead. - photo by Ben Hendren

West Forsyth’s Cayla Cowart stepped to the free throw line in the midst of a tied game with 1.6 seconds left in regulation on Friday, and the Forsyth Central girls basketball team couldn’t believe their eyes. It was happening again.

Last season, the very same Wolverines kept the Bulldogs out of the state playoffs with a last-second shot. Now, in the two teams’ first matchup since that day, Central’s bad luck against West seemed to be resurfacing.

With three seconds to play, Cowart fell after taking an inbound pass on what was supposed to be a quick play to the basket for the win, but a Central player fell on top of her, drawing the ill-timed foul.

“We’ve had things like that happen to us,” Central girls coach Angela Hurt said. “We fight so hard, and then something random like that kind of foul happens. The basketball gods must have been on our side tonight, because we were just holding our breath at that point.”

Central’s prayers were answered: West missed the shot, and in overtime, the revived Bulldogs capitalized their own last-second opportunity, with Aisha Dabo hitting the game-winning shot with 10 seconds remaining for a 59-58 Central victory.

“We had four or five opportunities to lose,” Hurt said. “The biggest thing for us, being a young team, is that after we made those mistakes, we held our composure and kept our focus and found a way to win.”

The fourth quarter was a wild one, with four lead changes. With 4:49 left to play, Central’s Ansley Carver hit a three for a 43-42 lead, and Dabo followed up with a jumper. After West took the lead back with a bucket from Cowart off a turnover, another three from Carver gave Central the advantage back with just over a minute left. Heading into overtime, the game was tied up at 50-50.

Elizabeth Pruitt began Central’s breath of new life, hitting a three out of the opening tip of the extra period before Dabo added a putback shot. The Bulldogs held a slim lead throughout overtime, but missed free throws gave West a chance to claw back in, with Kassidy Kimbro hitting a deep three to give the Wolverines a 58-57 lead with 23.3 seconds left. Dabo did the rest with her last-second shot.

“Coach Hurt set me up,” Dabo said. “I did what she told me to do and I got it. It brought back everything we did in practice: Coach Hurt telling me keep my hands up (and) to use the backboard. I did it tonight, and it worked.”

Dabo, a new addition to the Bulldogs from New York, led her new team with 20 points on Friday night.

“She’s been a really great addition,” Hurt said. “She’s athletic and she’s a great basketball player, but what she’s proved to us is she’s a great teammate. For the makeup of our team, that’s really important. She’s done a great job of learning our system.”

After a scoreless two minutes to start the game, West’s Calie Thrower got scoring started with a three with 6:03 left in the first quarter. She continued to make her presence known through a very defensive opening period for Central, hitting another three and a couple of free throws to help the Wolverines to a 10-5 advantage at the end of the first.

The scoring ramped up in the second quarter, with Central (7-4, 2-0) eventually tying the game at 20-20. However, a three right before the buzzer from Cowart gave the Wolverines (5-5, 0-2) the lead at the half, which they maintained through the third.

Pruitt scored 19 points for Central. Maggie Quincy led West with 15 points.

West Forsyth boys 72, Forsyth Central 53

The Wolverines took the lead in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs kept things competitive early, with West's lead at a slim 21-18 after one.

As the game went on, though, West began pulling away, holding a 34-26 lead at halftime and a 53-36 lead at the end of the third. Mikhari Sibblis, who missed the first few games of the season because of football, was a key factor for the Wolverines. He led his team with 19 points, while Jake Craft led the Bulldogs with 13.