The philosophy of taking a season “one game at a time,” is as common a sports cliche as there is. The North Forsyth girls basketball team isn’t quite rejecting it, but they also aren’t ignoring an achievement that looks increasingly likely.
With their 46-30 win over Lambert on Friday night, the Raiders’ second run through most of their Region 5-7A opponents began. North started its first circuit with a 46-45 win over the Longhorns before beating every other team by 22 points or more. For the second time through -- with two matchups against 1-10 Milton, after the first was postponed -- the Raiders have a specific result in mind.
"We came back from Christmas, and we set the goal to run the table from then on out," North head coach Eric Herrick said. "Yeah, we've definitely talked about it."
The close result in North’s first matchup was due in large part to the Raiders’ shorthanded status: They were missing senior forward Cassie Markle with an ankle injury, and freshman post Kate Perryman spent much of the game in foul trouble.
On Friday, the Longhorns were the ones with missing pieces, as starting point guard Summer Edwards and starting post Sydney Chason were both out with the flu. That greatly limited the Longhorns’ scoring options, and while Lambert’s zone defense forced North to take a more measured offensive approach, the Raiders shot well and produced points off of turnovers and run-outs. Catherine Shope scored the first 13 points for North, and she easily led all scorers with 23 in the game.
The Raiders (17-2, 5-0 Region 5-7A) were happy to get the win, but they also admitted that the Longhorns’ (11-8, 3-2) absences meant the matchup was lacking something.
"It's always more fun when all of us (are here)," Markle said. "Because it's such a big rivalry."
And while the Raiders had the game in hand early, leading 18-8 after the first quarter and 31-14 at halftime, Herrick still found reason to be animated and demanding of his team, particularly during a lackluster third quarter where North only scored five points.
"Our standards don't change," Herrick said. "...I thought we got extremely sloppy in the second half. We had a great first half, and we should have built on that, and we came out and got complacent, really sloppy in the second half. We're trying to play good basketball."
Lambert boys 82, North 59
North Forsyth gave a spirited effort in the first half, leading 36-34 heading into the break, but Lambert dominated in the third and fourth quarters and beat the Raiders for the second time this year.
Mitch Ganote hit a buzzer-beating layup to shrink North's lead to two as the teams went into halftime, and the Longhorns parlayed that bucket into a 13-2 run to start the third quarter. The Raiders didn't disappear, shrinking the deficit to 55-52 with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter, but Lambert scored seven points in the last two minutes of that quarter and then dominated the fourth, outscoring North 20-7.
Lambert's Jordan McIlwain led all scorers with 26 points, with 19 coming in the second half, and Ganote had 18 with 10 assists. Braden Collins led North with 15 points.