A dominant start to the third quarter had Forsyth Central’s boys in line for their first victory.
But Johns Creek refused to go away.
The Gladiators bounced back after surrendering 12 unanswered points to begin the second half and edged Central 50-45 on Tuesday at the D.B. Carroll Complex.
"I think it basically came down to toughness," Central head coach Greg Dirst said. "[Johns Creek] made the plays and we didn’t. We’ve got great kids, but they were just tougher than us."
Central (0-3) struggled to spread its scoring around, especially in the first half, when seniors T.J. Custer and Ryder Bowline accounted for all 21 of the team’s points.
Custer finished with a game-high 19 while Bowline added 18, combining for 37 of the Bulldogs’ 45 points.
The Bulldogs led by five points late in the first quarter but found themselves trailing 25-21 at the half. That deficit was erased throughout much of the third quarter, as Custer and Bowline continued to supply the vast majority of the team’s points.
Johns Creek (1-3) finally stopped the bleeding and closed the period on a 9-1 run of its own, cutting Central’s lead to 34-33 going into the fourth quarter. The Gladiators took a 36-34 lead on a 3-pointer by Malik Avery (team-high 18 points) 55 seconds into the fourth period.
After Central tied the game 36-36, Avery responded with another 3-pointer that gave Johns Creek a lead it would not relinquish.
Johns Creek’s lead never grew to more than five points during the final period, but the Bulldogs were unable to take advantage of key misses by the Gladiators at the free-throw line.
Johns Creek led 48-45 when Custer missed a jumper with 40 seconds remaining, forcing the Bulldogs to foul.
The Gladiators came away empty at the free-throw line, but the Bulldogs turned the ball over on their ensuing possession and had to foul once again. Johns Creek failed to convert the 1-and-1 opportunity at the line for a second straight time, giving Central another chance to tie the game.
Instead, the Bulldogs were called for an offensive foul with five seconds remaining. Central fouled again with 4.3 seconds on the clock, but this time the Gladiators converted both attempts to secure the victory.
Dirst said the Bulldogs have to do a better job of spreading the scoring around as the season goes on.
"We scored 45 points and had two guys with 37 of the 45," Dirst said.
"We’ve got to find some ways to score one more point than the other team."
Central will try to get its first win of the season on Friday at North Springs.
Johns Creek (girls) 46, Forsyth Central 30
By the time Forsyth Central’s girls found any offensive rhythm, it was too late to make a difference.
The Lady Bulldogs scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, two more than in the first three periods combined, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 46-30 loss to Johns Creek on Tuesday at the D.B. Carroll Complex.
Central (1-2) was held without a field goal in the first period and again in the third, when the Lady Gladiators forced 12 turnovers and stretched the lead to 33-14 going into the final quarter.
The Lady Gladiators (3-0) have outscored their first three opponents by an average of 57-26.
Johns Creek’s Dani Majkowski scored a game-high 13 points, while Emma Kane led Central with 11.
"When we settled down and found something that worked, we were out of gas and couldn’t get stops on the other end," Central head coach Andy Martin said.
"We had more turnovers than points in the first half, but defensively I thought we played well. Right now we’re still learning who we are ... what each other’s capabilities are."
Both teams struggled to score in the opening minutes, as Kane broke a scoreless tie and put Central on top 2-0 with a pair of free throws at the 4:13 mark in the first quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed by only two points, 7-5, almost four minutes into the second quarter, but Johns Creek’s press defense began forcing turnovers that turned into quick baskets.
After the Lady Gladiators missed the second of two free throw attempts at the 4:10 mark of the period, Brittany Reece rebounded the ball and dropped in a shot underneath the basket.
The Lady Gladiators forced a turnover on Central’s ensuing inbounds play and another moments later after the Lady Bulldogs came up with a defensive rebound. Brittany Wicks turned the latter into a basket that extended Johns Creek’s lead to 13-5.
The Lady Gladiators were up 20-10 going into the second half and never allowed the lead to slide into single digits after halftime.
"We just have to learn each game and take a step and get better," Martin said. "That’s new to all of us. That’s new to me and I’m learning some of my limitations as well.
"I just keep telling the girls, ‘We’re going to stay positive. We’re going to find a way to make it fun each night and winning is fun.’"
Central’s squads will travel to North Springs on Friday.