Kim Blake and Caroline Bowns showed no ill effects from the leg injuries they suffered earlier in the year.
Blake scored 15 of her game-high 18 points in the first half and Bowns added 17, as North Forsyth’s girls opened the season by crushing Milton 71-33 in the first round of the 2012 Roswell Infiniti Classic on Saturday at Raider Arena.
Blake, North’s starting point guard and team MVP as a junior last season, partially tore the medial collateral ligament in one of her knees in February while Bowns, a forward who was North’s offensive player of the year last season as a freshman, broke her fibia and tibia in the same leg playing soccer during the spring.
"Being [sidelined] for five months really was awful," Bowns said. "It was miserable, but now it feels so good to be back out on the court every day with people I love."
Said Blake: "It’s my senior year, so I’m just going to take every moment for the best and have fun every second."
After losing the final 12 games of the 2010-11 season, the Lady Raiders won a program record 21 games last season under first-year coach Eric Herrick and reached the state playoffs for the first time in five years. North finished runner-up to No. 5-ranked Alpharetta in Region 6-AAAAA and advanced to the second of the Class 5A playoffs before losing to No. 2-ranked Parkview.
With a new bar for success in place, Herrick said the team has a clear vision of what it wants to accomplish this season.
"We proved last year we can win games," Herrick said.
"This year ... we want to win a region championship. That’s our ultimate goal, that’s ... all we’ve talked about [since the] summer. That’s never happened here and we want to do things that have never been accomplished at North Forsyth.
"We’re not afraid of lofty goals. We’re going to set it and push ourselves every day to accomplish that."
North (1-0) took the first step toward that goal on Saturday as 11 different players scored points, including junior center Avery Scarbrough, who joined Blake and Bowns in double figures with 10 points.
Much of the Lady Raiders’ offensive production came courtesy of what they did on defense, as their full-court press smothered Milton (0-2) throughout the first half and forced one turnover after another.
"[Our teams stats] say 21 [forced turnovers], but I imagine it was upwards of 30," Herrick said.
"I think that was a huge difference in the game. We attempted 70 shots to their 30.
"[Sophomore guard] Lochlain Corliss was everywhere on the court [getting] deflection after deflection, steal after steal and running around making plays. We just tried to be disruptive."
After holding a 4-2 lead early in the first quarter, North stretched the advantage to 21-2 in the opening moments of the second period and pulled ahead 40-11 going into halftime. The lead grew as high as 41 points in the fourth quarter.
North was set to play in the second round of the Infiniti Classic on Tuesday before closing out the tournament tonight at Raider Arena.