By MacKenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
Four years ago, Forsyth Central wanted to do something special: Host a game in the school’s original gym. They called it “Domecoming.”
The new tradition has seen many special moments in its age, and they added one more on Friday night.
With the Central boys tied 58-58 with North Forsyth on the final possession of regulation, Bulldogs senior Giovanni Joseph heaved in a shot just beyond the timeline with one second left sending Bulldogs fans in to a frenzy as they defeated the Raiders 61-58.
“Brandon was supposed to come off the flare and I was supposed to set a screen,” Joseph said. “Something got mixed up and the ball just rolled my way. Once I saw we had one second left, I just had to let it go. It felt good when I did.”
Tied up at 58-all with 4.8 seconds left, Jackson Leak passed the ball inbounds to Joakeim Celestin. He lost the handle as the ball trickled up to center court. Celestin had the wherewithal to tip the ball to Joseph. He turned around, threw it up and down it went to give the Bulldogs their second lead of the game.
The first? A Jake Craft bucket from beyond the arc to make it 3-0 in the first quarter.
Joseph had never hit a game-winning shot in his career. On senior night, it’s one he’ll never forget.
“This was the best environment I’ve ever been a part of,” Joseph said. “Just being here in this experience, it was just a blessing.”
“I’m so happy for Gio,” Central coach Greg Dirst said. “He’s a super kid. Our kids kept going after getting down in the third quarter. Nothing went our way. We just kept grinding and the ball bounced our way.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Leak said. “I was like, ‘It’s going in’ as soon as it left his hands. Just a great feeling for him and this team.”
North Forsyth took its biggest lead at 50-41 after three quarters on a Justin Costello basket. Braden Collins took over the game in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 26 points. He hit seven from beyond the arc.
“We’ve seen that he can shoot the ball and when he gets hot, he’s difficult to stop,” Raiders head coach David Sokol said. “That was a great performance out of him and we found him. His teammates did a great job of getting him the ball.”
Central would get back-to-back baskets by sophomore Dylan Carter to cut the lead to 50-46. As the two teams traded free throws and baskets throughout the final stanza, The Bulldogs finally tied it up on free throws by Joseph inside a minute to play in the game.
“We fought and you could see there was a determination by our guys and that was good to see,” Sokol said. “Hate to lose it on a last second shot, but we’re proud of the way they played.”
Brandon Sherer scored a team-high 16 points for Central. Craft added 11 points. Jonathon Pefanis scored 16 points for the Raiders.
“This boosts our self-esteem,” Joseph said. “We deserved this win. We worked hard for it and we’re coming up. We’re not scared of anyone.”
North Forsyth girls 61, Forsyth Central 29
North Forsyth girls basketball coach Eric Herrick isn’t one to have the spotlight on him.
But he couldn’t shy away from it Friday night as he earned his 300th career victory and the No. 1 seed in next month’s region tournament as the Raiders defeated Forsyth Central 61-29 on Friday night.
“This just means I’ve had the opportunity to coach a heck of a lot of good players,” Herrick said. “This 300th win isn’t about me; it’s about all of the girls on the floor. I could mention 100 different names and that’s what it’s all about.”
Ansley Allen and Caroline Martin each scored 15 points in the victory. Lilly Bales added 11 points as The Raiders secured the top seed in the postseason.
“That was the goal going in,” Herrick said. “We want to run the table from here on out, and clinching the number one seed was part one of that goal.”
North Forsyth led 30-12 at halftime and with its lockdown defense, forcing turnovers and creating high percentage baskets on the offensive end. Herrick praised his team’s defense.
“We just guarded,” Herrick said. “When we only give up 29 points, we can beat anybody.”
Elizabeth Pruitt scored a team-high 13 points for the Bulldogs.
“Their pressure is so quick,” Central head coach Angela Hurt said. “When you don’t have the guards to match that, then it makes it really difficult to do the things you want to.”