By MacKenzie Bates
For the Forsyth News
North Forsyth girls basketball coach Eric Herrick called the Region 5-7A championship trophy “elusive.” Friday night’s title game was the sixth time in seven years the Raiders have had a shot at the crown.
They were not leaving without it this year.
Catherine Shope scored a game-high 22 points, earning tournament MVP honors, as North defeated South Forsyth 49-34 to win the program’s first region title since the 2013-14 season.
“365 days ago, we were sitting in a hallway at Milton,” Herrick said, referring to last season’s heartbreaking loss to Lambert. “We made a decision right then that we were going to work our butts off all summer and preseason and season to get back here and get that trophy back.”
Shope had a subtle fist pump late in the third quarter after making her fourth 3-point basket. It was at that moment she felt the game was in control and that elusive region championship was coming back to Coal Mountain.
“I couldn’t have accomplished this without our teammates,” Shope said. “I’m so thankful to play with this team to show everybody who the Raiders are.”
South (17-11) created havoc at the start of the game for North (25-2), changing up defenses to keep the Raiders off balance. North missed its first 14 of 16 shots before Shope’s first two triples finally fell through.
“I could not be prouder of this team’s effort,” South coach Keith Gravitt said. “We were able to switch a lot of things up defensively and not allow them to get in any rhythm.”
Herrick knew his team was out of sorts despite getting a lot of good looks at the basket. But once the shots started to fall and his squad could set up their defensive pressure, he said they got back to playing “Lady Raider Basketball.”
After the dust settled, North pressured South into 18 turnovers.
“It’s hard to press when we’re not scoring,” Herrick said. “We knew we were going to have moments of adversity that if we just stuck to our system, then shots were going to fall and get us in to our pressure.”
The War Eagles came out aggressive to start the second half. Baskets by Olivia Woodison, Zoe Maisel and Sara Idris brought South within a point at 23-22 with 6:11 left in the third quarter. Shope and North responded in kind with a 7-0 streak to squander South’s momentum.
“That’s when our kid’s character really showed,” Herrick said. “We were extremely resilient and battled back.”
Maisel, one of South’s senior leaders, scored a team high 13 points. Her second bucket late in the first half gave her 1,000 career points, the sixth player in program history to reach that landmark.
“She’s put in a lot of work, and not just during basketball season,” Gravitt said. “It’s so exciting for her and our program.”
But the night, and the region title, belonged to North.