North Forsyth seniors Harley Helms and McCall Thomas know what their roles are.
Usually, both of them are spark plugs for the Raider offense when needed, but as they warmed up to play Jefferson on Friday night, they both knew their responsibilities would be quite a bit larger.
The Raiders were without not one, but both of their leading scorers, seniors Caroline Martin and Ansley Allen, due to injuries. In practice, their absences loomed as they figured out how to make up for the lost production of two players that have led North to two straight Final Four appearances.
“We didn't know how to adjust at first,” Helms said. “Coach told us a couple of us had to step up and make big plays and make the extra shots, because they were both the high scorers every single time.”
But with the spotlight on Helms and Thomas, they both delivered, combining for 29 points in North’s 54-43 win over the Dragons.
“They're good with starting or not,” North girls basketball coach Brad Kudlas said. “They know they're going to get their opportunity. I always tell them, 'It's not who starts the game, it’s who finishes the game.' It could be a different five every night — they're OK with that.”
Thomas started the Raiders off well by leading them to a 6-0 run to start the game. After Jefferson responded with 10 straight points, she gave North the lead again with five points to end the opening quarter with a 13-12 lead.
Helms gave North control of the game in the second, connecting on three 3-pointers to extend her team’s lead to 10 with just a few minutes left until halftime.
“It was exciting putting my team up.” Helms said. “Usually when Caroline makes all the big shots, it brings up our energy, so it felt good to be that person for our team today.”
North led 31-21 entering the third quarter, and Helms opened the second half with yet another three to pace the Raiders for the rest of the game. Kudlas was impressed by 6-foot sophomore Maddie Erickson, who made some key blocks in the fourth quarter.
“She's been working hard all summer, really working on her defense (and) becoming a rim protector for us,” Kudlas said. “We're mostly guard-oriented and getting her in there to protect that rim would be huge.”
For the Raiders, Friday’s win was encouraging in regards to the amount of depth they have. The role players have learned from their mistakes, and they’re excited to see what they can do once Martin and Allen get back on the floor.
“We controlled the tempo most of the time, which was really huge for us,” Helms said. “Last time we played them, at the end, (we) got a little spastic but this time I think we played our game and we made the smart plays, the extra passes and we boxed out.
“I think, overall, we had a great team win.”