The Forsyth Central girls’ basketball team entered new territory 2 minutes 37 seconds into the third quarter. Until then, the Lady Bulldogs had never trailed so late in a Region 7-AAAAA, Div. B game this season. Nor had leading scorer Abbey Fagan been scoreless for so long. It’d been something of a charmed, undefeated run through the sub-region for Central thus far.
But though the run came to an end Tuesday in a 44-34 loss to Kell at home, the Lady Bulldogs remained in first place, just not by themselves anymore. Poor shooting and turnovers plagued Central (7-11, 5-1), which dropped into a tie for first with Sprayberry (12-5, 5-1), a 45-28 winner over Cambridge, and remains a half-game ahead of the Lady Longhorns (6-9, 4-1).
“Whenever they started to take the lead, I think we started to get a little sloppy,” Central head coach Angela Hurt said. “We weren’t protecting the ball the way we practice doing. After we started making mistakes, we started to press ourselves, and then it just kind of snow-ball effects from there.”
It started rolling uncontrollably in that pivotal third quarter, and it picked up speed fast. Central trailed just 23-19 at halftime, but Kell’s full-court pressure defense remedied that. Onyx Henderson grabbed a steal and made a transition layup. Kayla Oden forced another steal that led to a 3-pointer by Henderson and a timeout by Hurt with 5:23 left in the third quarter.
But Kell didn’t stop. The pressure continued and Central seemed ever more bewildered. Henderson hit another 3, Santavia Grant (16 points) made a fast break layup and Henderson (15 points) grabbed another steal and made the transition layup.
Hurt called another timeout at the 3:59 mark with Kell suddenly ahead 36-19.
“We just made some bad passes,” Central junior forward Julie Richards said, “and they were putting lots of pressure on us.”
Richards was the Lady Bulldogs’ steady presence Tuesday, scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, many of which led to offensive put-backs. On one sequence late in the fourth quarter, Richards grabbed her own miss twice and drew a foul the second time. She split the free throws and cut Kell’s lead to 40-32 with 1:11 left.
That was the silver lining for Hurt and the Lady Bulldogs. On a night when Fagan was held to just four points, all in the fourth quarter; a night when Central went scoreless for 6:21 in the third quarter; a night when the team struggled from the free-throw line (7-for-15) and all areas around it, Central still summoned the effort for a comeback.
But it was too late.
“I don’t feel like we played that bad,” Hurt said. “We made mistakes and turnovers in the third quarter. But I thought we did a good job of fighting back and getting ourselves back into it, and then even having the opportunity to probably get it even closer. We just couldn’t get the ball to fall.”
Kell 44, Forsyth Central 34
Kell 14 9 15 6_44
Forsyth Central 10 9 4 11_34
Kell: Grant 16, Henderson 15, Oden 7, Liger 4, Polk 2.
Central: Richards 16, Hearn 7, Gilbert 5, Fagan 4, Ledford 2.
Free throws: Kell 5-7, Central 7-15; Rebounds: Kell 22 (Liger 8), Central 39 (Richards 18). Steals: Kell 12 (Grant, Oden 4), Central 8 (Fagan 3).