As North Forsyth’s Caroline Martin laid on the floor clenching her left leg on Wednesday night, Raider Arena fell silent.
When she was helped off the court, players on North Forsyth’s girls basketball team stood to their feet and refocused on the task at hand: The Raiders were up by double-digits to South Forsyth, and with or without Martin, there was no time to fret. They had a job to finish.
The top-seeded Raiders continued to function as expected, cruising through the second quarter to defeat the War Eagles handily by a score of 58-33. The victory clinched a home playoff game for North, and set up a chance to repeat as region champions against Forsyth Central on Friday night.
“It's always exciting going back to back, but we have to make sure that we practice really hard tomorrow and prepare the best we can,” Raiders junior Ansley Allen said.
Before her injury, Martin did a good job getting the Raiders started, knocking down a three to put North in front 7-0 with 5:22 left in the first quarter. With 2:30 left, Harley Helms hit a three off a Martin assist, and after an Allen shot, North was on top 14-4. By the end of the first quarter, the Raiders held a 16-8 lead, and South was just trying to collect itself.
“I felt like they came out ready to play and we weren't ready to play at the beginning of the game,” South head coach Keith Gravitt said. “We let the game get away from us early, and you can't do that against a team like North Forsyth. They did a great job of finishing at the basket, in particular.”
The Raiders led 26-12 before Martin went down in the second quarter. The Raiders called upon juniors Harley Helms and McCall Thomas, as well as the team’s only senior, Morgan Giordano, to help fill the void. Helms hit a three in the fourth quarter, and the group combined for 12 points.
“We defended and did what we needed to do,” North coach Eric Herrick said. “A lot of kids stepped up after Caroline went down, so it's good to see some of those young kids get out there and make plays when we needed it.
“We've got the mentality that when someone goes down, (it’s) next man up.”
Herrick admits that the prospects of seeing his star player being on the floor for the title game aren’t good, but based on what he’s seen from the trio of Thomas, Helms and Giordano, and other players like Anna Gliatta, he is confident that his group can take care of business on Friday.
“If she can't play, it's an opportunity for somebody else,” Herrick said. “We’re expecting to fill that. McCall or Harley will step up -- Harley made shots tonight. McCall played well. Someone will fill that void.”
Allen led the Raiders with 17 points on the night, while Lilly Bales had 10. Sophie Rosin and Aniyah Word had 12 and eight points for the War Eagles, respectively.