Habersham Central dominated a vast majority of its Region 8-6A matchup Friday at North Forsyth.
However, the host Raiders held the visiting Raiders scoreless over the opening half of the first quarter and final half of the fourth period to pull off a thrilling 50-48 victory.
The closing run was particularly impressive given the success Habersham Central had been having on both ends of the court for much of the night.
Over the middle two quarters, the visitors held a sizable 35-18 scoring advantage. A couple of minutes into the final stanza, North Forsyth faced its largest deficit at 44-34.
After a bucket by the hosts cut the Habersham Central lead to 48-42, North Forsyth called a timeout exactly halfway through the fourth quarter.
From that point, it was quite literally all North Forsyth.
The locals didn't allow another point the rest of the way, and the offense completed the comeback by finishing on a 10-0 run.
“We tried to switch up the defenses a little bit just to disrupt them out of their offense,” North Forsyth head coach David Sokol said. “They’re very good in the half court. We talked about disrupting their offense, otherwise it was going to be a long night for us.
“I think we did that couple of times and got some big rebounds off of some missed shots.”
Out of the timeout, North Forsyth got a key stop. On the other end, Kal-El Delgadillo knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the hometown Raiders within one possession.
Moments later, Will Sokol buried a trey from the corner despite being fouled. Even though the senior missed the go-ahead free throw, Raider Arena was still rocking.
“Two seniors who have played a lot — one has played varsity for four years and the other for three years,” coach Sokol said of the kids who hit the monumental 3s. “That’s who we want with the ball at the end of the game. We need to get Brayden Turner going a little bit. He’s our best 3-point shooter, but he’ll come around.
“We’ve got a good shooting team. I thought we lost our confidence there when we started missing some. We’re just fortunate to come out on top against a good team.”
Ultimately, the final points came in rather anticlimactic fashion, as North Forsyth's Cole Kirouac went 2-for-2 at the foul line with 2:02 remaining.
From there, both defenses stood tall, and that worked out just fine for the hosts, who celebrated wildly after Brogen Casey secured a rebound in the final seconds.
The clutch free throws finished out a strong second half for Kirouac, who scored 13 of his 19 points after the break.
“He did a good job defensively, got some rebounds and hit some big free throws there, too,” Sokol said of the 6-foot-10 junior.
During the strong defensive start, North Forsyth (14-10, 7-4) didn't fully take advantage on the offensive end. By the time Habersham Central (14-8, 4-6) ended the shutout with 3:40 left in the first, the locals had only managed seven points themselves.
Even still, North Forsyth held a 12-4 edge entering the second quarter due, in part, to Delgadillo scoring 7 of his 15 points.
The locals stayed in control through much of the period before an 8-0 spurt to close the half pulled Habersham Central within 22-21 at the interval. That run extended to 13-0 early in the third quarter, and the visitors ultimately built up a 39-30 lead by the end of the stanza.
In the end, North Forsyth completed the season sweep, although not in nearly as convincing a fashion as its 73-50 triumph in Mt. Airy.
With a top-three seed for the region tournament secured, North Forsyth will hope to end the regular season on a high note during its Feb. 7 trip to Apalachee.
“We knew coming in they were going to be a tough out,” Sokol said of Habersham Central. “We did pretty good [in the first meeting] up there, but they’re a great team. They play well together; they play unselfish.
“It gives us confidence going into an away game in the region. I don’t care who it is, an away game is going to be tough. Hopefully, we’ll have some success there and be prepared for the region tournament.”