David Sokol has noticed Aidan Kudlas putting in extra time after practices.
Against Forsyth Central, those extra repetitions paid off.
North Forsyth was nearly perfect from the free-throw line down the stretch Tuesday, as Kudlas went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final minutes and the Raiders were able to hold off a ferocious comeback by the Bulldogs to win their first region game, 63-57.
For Sokol, the Raiders' performance at the free-throw line was a welcome change.
"We are not shooting well from the free-throw line this year at all. You don't want to say too much, because it gets in their head, but our point guard Aidan Kudlas did a heck of a job at the free-throw line down the stretch," Sokol said. "And he's putting in time after practice, the unrequired time, and it showed tonight."
Senior Cory Seitz had a double-double for the Raiders (6-14, 1-4 Region 5-7A), scoring 18 points and adding 13 rebounds, while senior Justin Costello scored a game-high 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the first half that helped North establish an early lead. Senior Canon Jackson chipped in 13 points.
Central (8-12, 1-4 Region 5-7A) had three players finish in double figures, led by senior Brandon Sherer's 19 points. Juniors Jake Craft and Dylan Carter each scored 13 points, and it was Carter's 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the game that cut the Raiders' lead to 54-52.
North responded by scoring eight of the next 10 points, all from the free-throw line. All told, the Raiders finished 76 percent (25 for 33) from the free-throw line.
Senior Kaleb Scott knocked down a jumper inside the final minute and Sherer connected on a desperation 3-pointer that made it a two-possession game, but the Bulldogs ran out of time to pull off the comeback.
"In the first half, they had a lot of looks and we were very fortunate they missed some threes," Sokol said. "They have four guards that can shoot it and put it on the floor, so that was our biggest concern. I thought our guys fought and for the most part played pretty good defense."
Seitz dominated on the glass for the Raiders, and his hustle play at the end of the third quarter energized the North bench and student section. After missing on a layup, Seitz sprinted the length of the court to block a shot against the backboard, preventing an easy layup and allowing the Raiders to maintain a two-possession lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"He's averaging close to a double-double," Sokol said. "I think he had 27 points and 15 rebounds against Lambert last game, so we made it a point to try to get it inside, but their pressure was bothering us in the perimeter a little bit. He's solid and we know what we're going to get from him every night."
North Forsyth will get another test when the Raiders host West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while the Bulldogs host the top team in the region, Milton, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.