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Basketball: North girls survive shaky start against West, remain unbeaten in Region 5-7A
North Forsyth's Ansley Allen dribbles towards the hoop during the Raiders' game against West Forsyth on Jan. 18, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

The moment North Forsyth’s girls basketball team stepped foot on the West Forsyth High School campus to their opening tip against the Wolverines on Friday night, head coach Eric Herrick felt like something was off. 

His thoughts were prophetic. Early on, his Raiders team looked nothing like the juggernaut that cruised by a good Forsyth Central squad earlier in the week. North scored just five points in the first quarter, missing shots and getting outrebounded at every turn.

“We got off the bus sluggish, we warmed up sluggish, we slept through the first half,” Herrick said. “It was an effort thing — we weren’t competing.”

Herrick made sure to let his team know about that critical issue at halftime, and the Raiders took his words to heart. North ultimately did enough to extend its perfect record in Region 5-7A play to 6-0 against the Wolverines, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 49-27 victory that felt much closer than that.

“Luckily, in the second half, we got it going a little bit and started making some shots,” Herrick said. “We rebounded the ball in the second half. That was the difference in the game.

“West Forsyth came out and punched us in the mouth. They were physical — they were so physical. Those kids came ready to play.”

On the heels of a 16-point performance against Central, Caroline Martin had an off night on Friday, with only seven points. The majority of those points came when her team really needed them, though: a layup immediately followed by an open three helped the Raiders take a 22-16 lead with 5:13 left in the third quarter after leading by just a single point at the break. West, aiming to match a solid first half defensive performance, called a timeout.

“We lost a little bit of discipline defensively,” West coach David May said. “When you play a team like North that’s really, really good and you lose that discipline, they’re going to take advantage of it. We tried to keep up the pressure and intensity in the second half and that kind of wore on us a bit.”

Shots from Kassidy Kimbro and Maggie Quincy kept the Wolverines in striking distance prior to the fourth, with North holding a 29-21 advantage heading into the final frame.

It was all North from there. Ansley Allen began a 10-2 Raiders run by drawing two straight three-point plays, making her free throws on both of them. Allen finished her night with a team-leading 19 points, with 11 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Her late performance was crucial for a team that was having uncharacteristic shooting issues.

“I realized that it was time to pick it up,” Allen said. “(We had to) start pushing the ball and start scoring.”

The Raiders trailed 7-5 after the first quarter, and fought back and forth with the Wolverines in the second. North took an 11-9 lead with 5:45 left in the first half on a Martin layup that rolled along the rim before finally going through the net. 

West’s Cayla Cowart tied the game at 13-13 with three minutes left in the second quarter, and after North took the edge back again, Quincy hit an open corner three with less than a minute left to narrow the Raider lead to 17-16 at halftime.

Even though the result didn’t come in an ideal fashion, the Raiders are still happy to be in their position, and there’s some relief that even on their worst nights, they can still find ways to get it done.

“It’s always reassuring,” Allen said. “We can’t underestimate our competition, obviously. But I think that it’s really exciting to move to the end of the season being 6-0 in the region.”

West Forsyth's Nick Zabetakis and North Forsyth's Justin Costello fight for a loose ball during the teams' game on Jan. 18, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

West Forsyth boys 65, North Forsyth 51

The Raiders took a 16-13 lead after one and a 28-23 edge after two, but West continued to stay in contention throughout behind a 29-point performance by Broc Bidwell. West took a slight 40-38 edge at the end of the third before taking full command of the game in the fourth.

Mikhari Sibblis scored 10 points for the Wolverines. Jonathan Pefanis led the Raiders with 22 points.