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Basketball: North girls' defense smothers South in easy win; South boys hold on late

South Forsyth girls basketball head coach Keith Gravitt had run out of better options to deal with North Forsyth’s suffocating defense on Tuesday night, so he pointed to five players on the bench, who promptly yanked off their warmup shirts and headed towards the scorer’s table.

These were the War Eagles’ reserves, though. North had just forced yet another takeaway out of South’s starters, claiming a jump ball before South could even get close to halfcourt, and Gravitt decided a message had to be sent. 

And the move turned out to be a source of extra satisfaction for the Raiders, who pushed the game into blowout territory by the third quarter and came away with a 59-37 win.

"It always feels good, as a competitor, to have the other team get so frustrated that they have to send in a whole new five for them to calm down," Raiders sophomore guard Ansley Allen said. 

North pressed frequently and gave South’s dribblers as little room as possible, making a task as simple as making a pass an arduous one. The Raiders held the War Eagles to just four points in the first quarter.

"That was the game plan going in: to really put pressure on their guards," North head coach Eric Herrick said. "...We were able to turn our defense into offense by getting some live ball turnovers and getting some easy shots in transition."

The trio of Allen, Caroline Martin and Catherine Shope led North’s offense, with Allen scoring 15 and the latter pair contributing 13 each.

The Raiders (15-2, 3-0 Region 5-7A) appear right now to be the clear favorite for the region title, having beaten defending champion Lambert without senior forward Cassie Markle and cruised to easy wins over South (11-7, 2-1) and Forsyth Central.

Herrick said the team hasn't shown any shortness of motivation and focus in practice, though. They know future matchups with Lambert are likely to be tight ones -- the first ended in a 46-45 win for North -- and are focused on constant improvement, even if the region schedule ends up being a walk. 

"If we just keep working hard lately, it looks good," Martin said. "I'd say we're pretty good."

South boys 60, North 52

A scorching start by senior guard Santhosh Saravanan gave the South Forsyth boys a comfortable early lead over North Forsyth, and while the Raiders climbed back in the second half, the War Eagles held on.

Saravanan poured in 17 points in the first half, and the War Eagles held a 32-15 lead heading into the break. The senior cooled off dramatically in the second half, though, scoring just three, and the Raiders reduced the deficit to 45-35 by the end of the third quarter. 

North (5-10, 1-2 Region 5-7A) was within four with just over five minutes to play in the game, but the War Eagles (7-10, 2-1) made four of the next five field goals to expand their lead.