Kim Blake gained some family bragging rights. More importantly, she helped North Forsyth’s girls keep their season alive.
Midway through the second quarter it looked like the Lady Raiders might get run out of their own gym, but in the end they were the ones chasing Mountain View away.
Blake (15 points), Caroline Bowns (28) and Lochlain Corliss (18) combined for 61 points as Region 6 No. 2 seed North rallied from an early 14-point deficit and crushed the Region 8 No. 3 seed Lady Bears 78-60 in the opening round of the Class 6A state basketball playoffs behind a large and vocal home crowd on Tuesday at Raider Arena.
The Lady Raiders (24-5) trailed 28-14 midway through the second quarter before tying the game with a 16-2 run led by Blake, who scored 14 of her points before halftime. Corliss scored all of her points in the final 11 minutes of play and Bowns tallied nine in the fourth quarter — all at the free throw line — when the Lady Raiders pulled away by outscoring Mountain View 31-15.
"We just weren’t making shots early," North head coach Eric Herrick said. "Kim kept us in it ... until we got to the second half ... and our kids just kept competing."
"I think [Mountain View shot] 8-for-11 in [the first] quarter and we knew that wasn’t going to last. We just had to keep competing, keep battling until Caroline, Avery [Scarbrough] and Lochlain got some confidence going to the basket. We had 46 points in the second half and that’s unheard of."
The Lady Raiders didn’t tally their first points until midway through the first quarter. By that time Mountain View (18-10) had pulled ahead 8-0 and would have made it 11-0 if a 3-pointer had not been negated by an offensive foul.
Mountain View pushed the lead to 28-14 in the second quarter before Blake hit two 3-pointers during a run that tied the game 30-30.
Blake, a senior who is the niece of Mountain View head coach Jackie Lindquist, said family ties weren’t about to get in the way of extending her career on the basketball court.
"Before the game I gave [my aunt] a hug, but once we stepped on the court it was all business," Blake said.
"For me this is do or die. For most other people [on our team] ... they still have more [playing] time, but this is it for me, so I knew I had to step up."
North trailed by two points at halftime and fell behind 39-34 when Mountain View’s Iceis Walker (team-high 20 points) drained a 3-pointer early in the third quarter.
The Lady Bears took away Blake’s shot opportunities in the second half, but the extra attention paid to the senior only provided more scoring chances for Bowns and Corliss. The sophomore duo combined to score all 15 of North’s points in the third period.
Corliss gave the Lady Raiders their first lead of the game on a pair of free throws with 54.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter and kept them ahead 47-45 going into the final period by converting a three-point play at the foul line with 4.5 seconds on the clock.
Less than two minutes later, Corliss later followed a 3-pointer by Cailey Abercrombie with one of her own to push the Lady Raiders’ lead to 55-45 with 6:10 to play.
Corliss also helped force turnovers on three consecutive Mountain View possessions in the middle of the period and finished the game with six steals.
"Coach was like, ‘We need to pick it up defensively because offensively we’re doing fine, it’s the defense that’s killing us,’" Bowns said. "Our guards got up on them and started to press them more ... and we [got] on a roll."
North led by double digits the rest of the way as Bowns protected the lead by hitting 9 of 10 shots at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Lady Raiders scored exactly half of their second half points at the stripe and hit an impressive 32 of 38 foul shots attempts (84 percent) for the game.
"Mountain View is a very good basketball team and plays in probably the best region in the state of Georgia," Herrick said. "I think until tonight people knew that we had a decent team [but] they weren’t sold, nobody was sold on how good we really were.
"For us to make a statement like this, to win this game by 18 points is just huge for our program. This is a program-changing win."
North advances to the second round of the state playoffs for the second consecutive season and will face No. 4-ranked Cherokee (28-1) at 6 p.m. on Friday in Canton.