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Basketball: Undefeated North Forsyth girls take aim at region, state titles

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North Forsyth has been among Georgia’s best women’s basketball programs this decade, and this year, the Raiders have dominated to their program's best start in history but are still hungry for more.

In the early evening hours of Jan. 23, Raiders head coach Brad Kudlas led his team onto the hardwood for their game against Lanier. His squad entered the matchup undefeated, while riding a torrent hot 19-game winning streak.

That night's game was no different as the Raiders jumped on Lanier early and often. The Longhorns had no answer for North, as the hosts made short work of them, 63-18, advancing to 20-0 on the season.

Although this is the program’s best start since its inception, it isn’t the first time the team’s tasted success. Since the 2011 season, North has made the playoffs 11 out of the past 12 years, including each of the past seven.

In this stretch, North reached the Elite Eight five times and made the Final Four in 2018 and 2019. According to Kudlas, the key to maintaining a contender for such a period is to create a sense of community among players.

Kudlas says the program tries to maintain a family atmosphere by practicing the school's varsity and junior varsity teams together, and occasionally bringing in students from nearby North Forsyth Middle to interact with the players.

“The important thing is that everyone gets to know each other.” Kudlas said on the community his players share with each other.

In addition, the program does its Great Raiders in Training (G.R.I.T.) program every summer, when they help train students from the elementary level up to the high school level.

As for the players, they see results translate from their work ethic and their consistent aim for improvement. Former player-turned-assistant coach Caroline Palmer says the players put each other above themselves every day.

Furthermore, the program holds high standards for its players. Palmer states that the overall expectations the program holds are to “show up with a positive attitude, work hard and consistently do what the team needs to be successful.”

Having completed an undefeated regular season, North's leading scorer, shooting guard London Weaver, likes the team's chances in the playoffs.

“I feel like we’re really keeping up with intensity in practice," Weaver said, "and if we keep working toward the goal of state, we have a chance to be successful.”

In all of their recent postseason appearances, the Raiders have had some success. Despite this, the team has never been able to secure a state championship.

With the group on the cusp of one of its best seasons, both the coaches and the players are looking to change that.

Palmer believes that this year's team has what it takes.

“Everyone is bought in and wants the championship,” she said, “so if we continue to show up like we have been, hopefully we can achieve that.”

Kudlas cited that the team has the date of the state finals written down in their locker room as motivation for their hard work.

“The hard thing is to not look ahead and focus on the here and now,” he stated.

Weaver has one word to describe if she thinks the team can bring the hardware home this season.

“Definitely,” she exclaimed, “this is the year!”

North will begin the postseason with a Region 8-6A semifinal matchup against Gainesville Feb. 15 at Shiloh. The Class 6A state playoffs will tip off next week, and a win over the Red Elephants would secure the Raiders a home playoff game.