An early season game between two teams in the mix for the Region 6B-AAAAAA title played out exactly as one would expect. Ultimately, it came down to a couple of key possessions.
Unfortunately for the North Forsyth Lady Raiders, the ball just didn’t bounce their way as visiting Alpharetta escaped with 49-42 win Friday night.
Alpharetta’s Kylee Smith led all scorers with 18 points, 12 of those coming from the free-throw line.
Smith’s teammate Lauren Brown scored 16 while North Forsyth’s Lochlain Corliss and Avery Scarbrough paced their team with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Caroline Bowns added eight points for the Lady Raiders (7-2, 2-1).
“We don’t lose, we either win or we learn,” said North Forsyth head coach Eric Herrick. “We learned a great lesson tonight, had a great battle.
“I think Alpharetta felt pretty good about getting out of here with a win … They knew they were in for a battle and we gave them everything we had.”
Down 33-27 heading into the fourth quarter, North Forsyth needed turnovers.
For much of the game, Alpharetta had kept North on the perimeter, forcing 3-pointers or Corliss to weave through their staunch defense and find points at the rim, either for herself or Scarbrough.
In order to get turnovers and easier looks on offense, North came out with a hybrid man-zone, full-court defense to open the final period.
Eventually, the pressure started to pay off.
Following an Alpharetta rebound, North’s Kim Blake (8 points) stole the ball at the top of the key and scored on the other end.
North’s pressure forced another Alpharetta turnover and Corliss hit a 3 with 3:58, cutting the score to 39-37 Alpharetta.
After a pair of free throws from Smith, who was 12-of-12 from the line, Corliss penetrated through the middle of Alpharetta’s defense and found an open Scarbrough (3-of-5 field goals, 4-of-4 free throws) who finished at the rim with a layup.
North forced yet another turnover, with Corliss (6-of-10 from the field, 1-of-2 3-pointers) again converting, this time laying it in, tying the game at 41 with 2:42 remaining.
“We were just trying to keep them off balance [with our defense],” Harrick said. “I thought that’s what got us back in the game at the start of the fourth quarter.”
The tie was only temporary. On Alpharetta’s next possession, Brown (7-of-8 field goals, 2-of-6 free throws) put Alpharetta back on top with a jump shot following her own miss.
A Corliss free throw brought North within one at 43-42 with 1:09 remaining, but it was Brown again who put the game out of reach.
After getting fouled on a jump shot attempt, she sank two free throws with 45.3 seconds remaining. Alpharetta would add four more free throws for the final margin.
“That’s what you’re going to get from great basketball players,” said Harrick, who was proud of his young team’s performance in a high-pressure game.
“I think we felt the pressure. We’re a young basketball team, we don’t have the experience of playing in these huge basketball games against the great teams, but our effort was there. We made big shots to get us in the game and we defended extremely well.”
“We did everything we needed to put our self in a position to win, we just didn’t execute down the stretch.”
Friday’s game ended an emotional week for Harrick’s team and the North community.
North student Kyle Robins died in a car accident Monday afternoon and Friday’s game was delayed nearly two hours so players could attend his funeral.
Harrick also mentioned that one of his player’s grandfathers had passed away the night before.
Despite the turmoil, the Lady Raiders embraced the opportunity to play.
“Our kids are playing with heavy hearts, we’re just blessed to be a part of something this special, and get to spend time with our friends and family, and just blessed to be able to play a game tonight,” Harrick said.
“When we walk out onto that court, that’s kind of our escape. We get to spend time with our friends, who we love to be around, and get to play a game we all love to play.”