The Forsyth Central girls basketball team started each half on a tear Tuesday night at the D.B. Carroll Complex.
North Forsyth could only withstand one of them.
The Lady Bulldogs pulled away in the third quarter for a 44-33 win, their second against the Lady Raiders this season. Central’s stifling man-to-man defense held North to 10 second-half points (two in the third quarter) on 17.6 percent shooting and 2-of-16 from 3-point range for the game.
“We came out strong the second half,” said Central forward Emma Kain. “North’s kind of a rival, so it was good for us.”
The Bulldogs began the contest on a 10-2 run and scored the first eight points of the third period after North took a 23-21 lead into the break.
The Lady Raiders saw a three-game winning streak snapped and haven’t defeated Central in four tries since their 2007-08 state playoff season, when both schools were members of Region 7-AAAAA.
Despite occasional lapses, Bulldogs forward Kayla Richards and point guard Keeley Chester scored 16 and 14 points, respectively. Lochlain Corliss led North with 12, but the Raiders’ poor night shooting kept them from hanging with Central for four quarters.
“That’s extremely frustrating,” North coach Eric Herrick said. “That game right there for us came down to making layups and free throws, two of the elementary areas of basketball. I thought our effort was fantastic. I thought defensively we did a great job. It came down to the mental errors of free throws and layups.”
North converted just 3 of 17 field goals in the final two periods. It went 9-for-15 from the foul stripe.
The Bulldogs (9-2, 2-1 Region 7-AAAA) defense played a significant part in that, rarely giving the Raiders a clean look and forcing them to work the ball around the perimeter.
A Kim Blake 3-pointer brought North within 40-32 with 4:08 to go, but the Raiders would score one more point and attempt just two more field goals.
“We just tried to be stronger and tougher than the opponent,” Kane said. “It was tough.”
Kane had three big blocks and sparked Central’s second-half surge with back-to-back buckets early in the third. North (7-4, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAA) didn’t score until two minutes remained in the frame.
Chester started the second half with a reverse layup to tie the game 23-23 and scored again to give Central the lead for good on its next possession. Kane followed with a layup and turnaround jumper on the Bulldogs’ next two possessions.
Corliss’ running one-hander banked through late in the quarter, but Central guard Kayla Bennett responded with a right-wing trey. Richards’ ¾-court heave with the third-quarter clock winding down fell way short, but Kirstin Lindstrom caught it and managed an off-balanced shot before the buzzer sounded, giving Central a 33-25 advantage.
“[That gave us] a ton of momentum,” Kane said. “That was awesome.”
Avery Scarbrough’s lay-in early in the fourth made it a two-possession game again, but the sophomore Raiders center missed a couple other point-blank shots during the quarter.
North hung right with Central for a half, erasing an early deficit to take a 16-14 lead on back-to-back Scarbrough layups. The teams traded baskets from there, and the Raiders led 23-21 at the break.
With Corliss guarding Chester and fellow North freshman Caroline Bowns matching up with Richards, the two Central stars were limited at times, especially during the first half.
In the second, they began to find more openings. Neither left the floor the entire game.
“They stepped up big in a big game,” Central coach Andy Martin said of his two senior captains. “They wanted this one.”
Both Central and North will play at next week’s Hall vs. Forsyth Holiday Shootout at Johnson High School in Gainesville. The Bulldogs face North Hall at 2 p.m. Wednesday, and the Raiders play Johnson at 5 p.m. that day. North matches up with North Hall at 2 p.m. Thursday, and Central plays Johnson at 5 p.m.