Forsyth Central’s boys never trailed, but South Forsyth made things interesting in the final minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs saw a 10-point, fourth quarter lead trimmed to two in the closing seconds, but they held on to avenge a season-opening loss to the War Eagles with a 56-54 win on Monday at the D.B. Carroll Complex.
The Bulldogs (4-6) have won four out of their last six games after losing the first four games of the season, including a 65-52 defeat at the hands of South on Nov. 19.
"I’m so proud of our guys," Central head coach Greg Dirst said. "We hung on there and got in foul trouble.
"We were missing a couple of [players] and it was just good win, man. It’s good anytime you can win within the county; it’s always going to be close. They got us the first game of the year and so it’s good to come back and get one on them."
T.J. Custer paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 20 points and Ryder Bowline (15) and Clint Fenton (14) both finished in double figures. South’s Greer Landry led the team with 16 points and Douglas Cotter added 12.
Central led by as much as 13 points in the second half, but the War Eagles (3-5) cut the lead to 55-49 with a 3-pointer from Kevin Sullivan with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter.
South’s Geronimo Cruz later stole the ball and took it in for a layup to cut the lead to four with under a minute left, and Landry added a free throw to narrow the score to 55-52 before Dirst called a timeout with 21.9 seconds left.
The Bulldogs inbounded the ball and ran eight seconds off the clock before Fenton was fouled and sent to the line, where he made one free throw. South found Sullivan at the 3-point line, but his shot was off the mark. Landry got the rebound and scored to cut the lead to two. Central was immediately fouled with one second left and missed both free throws. South rebounded the ball and heaved it cross-court, but missed as time expired.
"I was kind of nervous, but I was feeling real good about tonight," Custer said. "Throughout the day the team was [too] and we were real sure we wanted to come out and get this win.
"It says that we’re tough and mentally ready to go when we need to."
The Bulldogs jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first quarter before finishing ahead 18-10. They finished the second quarter ahead 29-22 before claiming a 46-37 advantage to start the fourth quarter.
"I thought we played hard; it was a tough loss," South head coach Manson Hill said. "We just got behind early. Our shot selection early got us in big trouble."
Central will travel to North Forsyth on Thursday, while South won’t play again until after Christmas.