ALPHARETTA — North Forsyth’s boys threatened to make a turnaround for the ages, but Centennial restored order in the second half.
Xavier Jackson and Will Perry scored nine points apiece for the No. 4 seed Knights in the second half, as they rallied from a four-point deficit at halftime and handed the No. 5 seed Raiders a season-ending 48-37 loss in the opening round of the Region 6-AAAAAA basketball tournament on Wednesday at Alpharetta High School.
The Raiders (12-14) dictated the tempo in the first half of a game played only five days after they suffered a 77-37 blowout loss against the Knights (16-10) in the regular season finale, but Centennial reclaimed the lead in the third quarter and held North to seven points through the first 13-plus minutes of the second half.
"I thought we guarded pretty good for the entire game, for the most part," North head coach Brian Moon said. "We just had some shots that didn’t go down, and I’m talking [about them being] halfway down and coming out.
"We battled well and I thought we played hard to the end. That’s all I ask them to do."
After playing to a 10-10 tie at the end of the first quarter, Rick Adle put the Raiders on top 21-17 going into halftime.
The senior forward scored six of his eight points in the second quarter, including the Raiders’ final four points of the period.
Adle put North on top 19-17 on a basket in the paint with just over a minute to play before halftime, then rebounded a miss by Caleb Knost (team-high 10 points) and scored on the put-back with 15 seconds remaining.
Jackson (11 points) helped get Centennial back in the driver’s seat in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring five points as the Knights opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run. Jackson sliced into the paint to score the first basket of the second half, then knocked down a 3-pointer later in the period to give the Knights a lead they would not relinquish.
"You know [Centennial is] going to have a run or two [every game]," Moon said. "They have those kinds of players"
Perry (11 points) saved his best for last with seven points in the final period to keep the Knights ahead by two possessions or more the rest of the game. His jumper with 4:30 remaining boosted Centennial’s lead to 38-28 and prevented North from mounting a serious challenge the rest of the way.
The Raiders’ 12 wins this season matched their total from the previous three seasons combined. Moon, who completed his second season as the team’s head coach, still has his sights set on making North a playoff team, and emphasized the importance of conditioning the players to facing teams like Centennial at younger ages.
"It’s a process," Moon said. "We’ve got to start off a little bit younger playing against good competition, reach outside our county boundaries and get kids playing at a younger age against better players than they see in the county.
"I think once you start doing that ... you don’t have to play a team three or four times before you settle in playing against them, like what we did on our third attempt against [Centennial]."