This game meant something to Brandon Rapson.
Despite it being a non-region matchup, the senior forward wanted to prove to Forsyth Central that his team was better than its record, and did just that as he poured in 24 points to lead North Forsyth to a 53-45 win on Thursday at Raider Arena. With the victory, the Raiders (4-6) have already exceeded their win total from last season.
The victory also snapped the Raiders’ four-game losing streak.
"We’re coming off a tough stretch, so it’s a good one to get against Central, our county rival," Rapson said. "It’s not a region game anymore, but it’s always a big, meaningful game. They kept fighting, so we had to keep our energy up.
"We’ve already got more wins than last year and if our guys play hard, I think we have great chance of winning a lot more games this year."
The Raiders built a 14-point advantage midway through the third quarter, but let the lead slip to 48-43 with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter after a steal and score by Central’s Ian Leeds.
A.J. Zlatic tried to cut deeper into the lead with a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left, but his shot was off target, forcing the Bulldogs (4-7) to foul, but not until North ran the clock down to 29 seconds. The Raiders were 3-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute, but played solid defense and only allowed two points to pick up the win.
"We really wanted to come out and play well for the holidays; we were real fortunate," North head coach Brian Moon said. "To let [Central] get back in it, we did some poor things. We took a couple of bad shots [after] we hadn’t taken a bad shot in three quarters ... but we hung in there. This team last year would have probably lost this game, so hopefully we’re getting better."
Wade Allen tallied nine points for North, while the Bulldogs, who played without starting forward Jeremiah Jones, relied heavily on T.J. Custer (19) and Ryder Bowline (14) for the team’s points.
The contest was scoreless until the 4:22 mark in the first quarter, when Caleb Knost knocked down a jumper for North. The Raiders jumped out to a 10-3 lead near the end of the period, but Central narrowed the gap to two points early in the second quarter.
Rapson then took over in the paint, scoring 11 points in the second quarter to put North ahead 26-16 at halftime.
Things didn’t get better for Central in the third quarter, as head coach Greg Dirst received a technical with 6:18 left after arguing a foul. North then went on a 10-6 run to make the score 38-24 and closed the quarter ahead 42-30.
"Sometimes [the shots] go in, sometimes they don’t," Dirst said.
"[We] just try to win and try to score one more point than the [other team does], but we are what we are. It’s a disappointing loss, but it is what it is."
North will face King’s Ridge Christian at the Pickens Holiday Classic on Thursday, while Central will play against Banks County in the WCON Christmas Classic at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Habersham Central High School.