Give the North Forsyth girls even the slimmest of fourth-quarter leads, and the Lady Raiders will dribble in circles to drain the clock, then drain free-throw after free-throw to salt the game away.
North did it on Tuesday in a win at Lambert. It was more of the same on Friday night.
The Lady Raiders knocked down 16 of 18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter alone, and 25 of 28 in total, to earn a 53-44 win at West Forsyth.
"Caroline [Bowns] and Lochlain [Corliss] aren’t going to miss," North head coach Eric Herrick said. "We’re going to put it in our two best players’ hands and say, ‘Come foul us,’ and we’ll be happy to get in to a free-throw shooting contest."
Corliss hit all six of her free throws in the fourth and led the Lady Raiders (7-0 overall, 3-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) with 14. Bowns hit four of five and finished with 10, while Morgan Grindle added 10 points (4-of-4 from the line in the fourth quarter).
Jenna Staiti tallied a game-high 27 for West (3-2, 2-1), including 14 in the final quarter, but three fouls in the first 10 minutes hampered the 6-foot-5 junior defensively. Herrick said she wasn’t able to be as aggressive around the rim; Staiti blocked three shots.
West head coach David May downplayed the foul trouble’s effect on Staiti.
"Jenna knows how to play without fouling and she’s very rarely in foul trouble," he said. "I don’t know how much that really bothered her."
North held Staiti in check through three quarters, but once Okwunne Ogbogu (nine points) fouled out with four minutes to play, the Maryland commit began to score nearly at will. By then, it was too late.
"We’ve got to do a better job of keeping the game under control in the early stages," May said. "They have two really good guards, and with a five- or six-point deficit in the fourth quarter, you’re going to have to do something really special to win that game."
Corliss and Bowns ensured that West never got closer than two in the second half. North turned it over five times in the last 16 minutes despite being chased up and down the floor.
By the fourth quarter, as the Lady Raiders held the ball for minutes at a time, West had no choice but to foul.
"We spread it out and made them foul us," Herrick said. "Once you get up six or seven, you don’t want to let them score with the clock stopped."
The best way for North to set up its press, Herrick said, is off a made free throw. North didn’t force lots of turnovers, but West was forced to use up valuable clock just to get the ball down court.
"[Ball control] is what they do," May said. "We’ve got to value each possession more and value the ball more. North beat us basically to every loose ball. We knew coming in that we’d have to play harder than they did, and we didn’t."
North Forsyth 53, West Forsyth 44
North Forsyth 7 16 9 21_53
West Forsyth 8 10 10 16_44
North Forsyth: Corliss 14, Grindle 11, Bowns 10, Ogbogu 9.
West Forsyth: Staiti 27, Rodriguez 5.
2-pt FG—North: 9-17. West: 12-22.
3-pt FG—North: 3-7. West: 2-5.
FTM/A—North: 25-28. West: 14-22.