When the layups weren’t falling, North Forsyth’s girls needed Kim Blake to add to her record number of 3-pointers.
Blake knocked down four shots from beyond the arc in the third quarter to push the Lady Raiders out to a 12-point advantage that proved just enough for them to hold on for a 50-48 victory over Centennial on Tuesday at Raider Arena. In December, Blake, a senior, broke the program record for 3-pointers in a career (138), held by Kevia Brown for almost two decades.
North’s winning streak now stands at eight games, the program’s best stretch of play in more than eight years.
"We needed big shots at the time because [the score] was tied," Blake said. "We definitely need [that 3-pointer element] as a team. When some people are missing and we don’t have [center] Avery [Scarbrough on the floor], we definitely need to be able to knock down the outside shot."
A big first quarter from Caroline Bowns (team-high 15 points) got the Lady Raiders (15-2, 6-1 Region 6B-AAAAAA) out to an early lead. Bowns scored nine points in the opening quarter, giving North a 16-9 advantage going into the second period.
Centennial (12-3, 5-2) battled back to tie the game at 23 going into halftime behind Becca Davis, who scored eight of her 10 points in the second quarter.
Blake (12 points), who had been held scoreless in the first half, provided North’s first points of the third quarter with a shot from beyond the 3-point line.
North coach Eric Herrick said the team began freeing up Blake by allowing Bowns to handle point guard duties.
"We may need an adjustment and put Caroline at point guard [long-term]; she’s just a matchup nightmare," Herrick said. "The kid is almost six feet tall and really handles the ball well, gets to the rim, so you’re going to have to give help somewhere. We just put a great shooter [Blake] in the corner and let Caroline go to work and make the read."
Blake hit three more 3-pointers — each almost exactly a minute apart — during the final four minutes of the period, as Scarbrough sat on the bench with four fouls, reducing North’s presence in the paint.
When the Lady Raiders did get open looks inside they often failed to convert, an issue that plagued them during a victory over West Forsyth on Friday. Herrick acknowedged that the problem could come back to haunt the team if it continues, but didn’t feel like focusing on faults after coming away with a region victory.
"You know, we did the little things and we find ways to win," Herrick said. "When you find ways to win when you don’t convert [that’s big]. In the long run it may sneak up to bite us ... but I’m tired of going into the locker room upset over wins, so we’re going to celebrate the wins."
The Lady Raiders closed the third period with a 43-31 lead, but were held scoreless for the first three minutes of the final quarter.
Behind center Paige Elliott, who scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the second half, Centennial cut North’s edge to 45-42 with 2:35 remaining.
The Lady Raiders hit five of six free throws down the stretch — the final three by sophomore guard Lochlain Corliss — to keep Centennial from narrowing the gap to less than three until Davis hit a meaningless jumper as time expired.
"She’s been struggling [at the line] lately, she’s been missing free throws, so I sure was glad to see that kid step up there and knock them down when they counted," Herrick said of Corliss. "All year last year that’s what she did, she hit big free throws in crunch time. The kid is fearless."
The Lady Raiders will host Johns Creek at 6 p.m. on Friday at Raider Arena.
Centennial (boys) 82, North Forsyth 55
North Forsyth’s boys controlled the majority of the first period but couldn’t contain Centennial any longer than that.
The Knights (9-6, 6-1 Region 6A-AAAAAA) answered a slow start with a 24-6 run and topped the 80-point mark for the second game in a row during an 82-55 victory over North (8-9, 1-6) on Tuesday at Raider Arena.
Trey Hansbrough (22 points), Christian Lynch (17), Xavier Jackson (11) and Will Perry (11) were all in double figures for Centennial. Brandon Rapson led North with 14 points.
The Raiders looked sharp early, winning the tip-off and collecting two offensive rebounds on their first possession.
North tallied its first two baskets off assists by Branson marks and continued to score inside, as a close-range shot by Rapson later put the team ahead 13-8 with under two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
That’s when Centennial took over.
The Knights broke off a 26-4 run that pushed them ahead by 17 points late in the second period. Centennial continued to build its advantage and kept the gap near 30 points most of the fourth quarter.
The Raiders will host Johns Creek at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Raider Arena.