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Basketball: North Forsyth girls downed by Hillgrove in tourney finals
North Forsyth's Erin Whalen goes up for a shot under pressure from Hillgrove defenders during the Raider Classic championship game Tuesday at home. (Photo by Robin Patterson)

One moment perfectly encapsulated the frustration felt by North Forsyth towards the officiating that took place during the girls final of the Raider Classic Tuesday at home.

Following a foul call on star senior Erin Whalen during a box out, longtime North Forsyth scorekeeper Pam McBride received admonishment for her mouth-agape reaction.

In the end, the fourth-ranked Raiders shot 2-for-5 from the foul line. Meanwhile, No. 10 Hillgrove went 20-for-24 from the stripe in a 64-52 win in the 12th annual tourney's title game.

The game proved to be a stark contrast to the 70-47 victory North Forsyth secured in the semifinals against eighth-ranked Rome the night before.

“The way the game was played was a little bit different,” Raiders head coach Brad Kudlas said. “That game was called a little bit tighter than this game. This game, they let both teams play a lot.”

Despite the vast difference in free throws attempted, North Forsyth managed to get back within six points late due to a barrage of 3-pointers. Overall, the Raiders made as many shots inside the arc as they did outside, knocking down 10 of each.

In the final moments, one last foul call went against North Forsyth, and Kudlas landed a technical foul call that had been building for much of the second half, when the Raiders shot just one free throw against 15 for the visitors.

“They played hard throughout the game,” Kudlas said of his team. “Definitely a different style than what we’re used to. They had to fight through a lot of adversity. It was a very physical game. I thought the girls handled it well. There were a lot of growing experiences from it.

“You want to play good teams, and they’re top 10 in 7A. I was impressed with how our girls handled themselves.”

Hillgrove, which took down Lambert in its semifinal matchup, led almost the entire way, claiming a 17-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Hawks used a 7-0 run to create separation in the second quarter only to see Meredith Franklin connect on a pair of treys in the final 45 seconds to pull the Raiders within 30-23 at halftime.

Even though North Forsyth (3-1) buried seven 3s in the second half, the Raiders struggled to slow down the Hawks and trailed 49-36 entering the final period.

Whalen and Franklin finished with 14 points apiece, while Kamryn Gardner added 13. Franklin sank four triples, and Gardner knocked down three.

“We got into a hole and couldn’t get ourselves out,” Kudlas said. “Credit to them, every time we would make a run, they would hit a shot, get an and-1 or a putback. That’s what good teams do.”

North Forsyth girls 70, Rome 47

By Derrick Richemond

The North Forsyth Raiders girls basketball team advanced to the finals of their own tournament, beating Rome, 70-47, Monday in the Raider Classic.

"We focused on keep playing hard. The girls got after it. It was just a great overall effort," Raiders head coach Brad Kudlas said.

North started the game right by winning the tip-off, and Erin Whalen finished at the hoop to strike first on a second chance. 

Rome was able to cash in from a turnover when Jermiya Winston passed it to Ashanti Bowers for Rome's first bucket. However, Rome’s defense didn’t get back and Kamryn Gardner was left alone in the corner to knock down the triple for a 5-2 lead.

Rome didn’t see the lead after that, and North started to take advantage of the lack of defense from behind the arc.

London Weaver received a pass from Whalen for a 3-pointer. Then the Raiders defense caused a turnover and the possession ended with Gabbie Gliatta cashing in for another 3-pointer to grow the lead to double digits.

Rome finally broke North’s run when Bowers took the inbounds pass coast to coast and got a floater to go down to cut the lead to 14-6.

North made the best out of what the defense was giving, and it led to Meredith Franklin knocking down the triple. Later Gardner was left alone for a corner 3 to end the quarter on a high note with a 20-8 lead.

In the second quarter, Rome outscored the Raiders, 16-10. Winston led the charge by scoring seven points, though the Raiders were still in command.

The highlight of the quarter was when Franklin hit a pull-up 3 in transition.

That momentum carried over to the fourth quarter. The Raiders offense really clicked, scoring 29 points to Rome’s 12.

"We did a better job on defense stopping them from getting easy layups and owning the boards. We ran our sets a little bit more," Kudlas said on the second-half performance.

Rome looked to crawl back when Winston took another basket coast to coast to cut the lead to 46-42 with 5:36 to go. 

The Raiders shifted the momentum back to their side and ran away with the lead. Whalen’s 3 gave the Raiders a double-digit lead of 52-42.

On a fast break, Whalen showed how flashy she could be by hitting an acrobatic layup.

Whalen led the Raiders in scoring with 21 points, Weaver followed right behind her with 16 and Gardner tacked on 12. 

With a 66-47 North lead at 1:35, both coaches emptied out the bench.