ALPHARETTA – Inside a classroom at Chattahoochee High School, the North Forsyth Lady Raiders basketball team twice rallied to chants of, “CHICKEN POT PIE! CHICKEN POT PIE!”
Nowhere in his speech after a 60-40 victory against Habersham Central on Tuesday in the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament could North head coach Eric Herrick recall referencing that the Lady Raiders had just clinched a spot in the state playoffs.
“It’s just one of those things you start taking for granted after a while,” Herrick said, “but we shouldn’t. We need to enjoy it.”
North (23-3) enjoyed a dominating performance against Habersham (14-13) to advance to the semifinals of the region tournament Friday against county rival West Forsyth, a 61-33 winner over Chattahoochee on Tuesday. The teams split their two meetings in the regular season.
Even in its dominance, Herrick saw room for improvement. Sure, North out-rebounded Habersham, 34-19. It forced 21 turnovers while committing just nine. It was more efficient at the free-throw line. It asserted itself early, building a comfortable lead by halftime and building on it in the second half so it could empty the bench late in the fourth quarter.
Caroline Bowns led North with a game-high 32 points, Lochlain Corliss had 10 points and 10 players for North scored in all.
Jalen Davis and Lainey Gosnell each scored 11 points for Habersham.
Still, Herrick found some material to work with – too many missed layups, poor shooting from behind the arc (just 4-of-20).
“We scored 60 points, but I still think we left 25 out there,” Herrick said. “We talk about it all the time – when you play the Wests and South Forsyths, your margin for error is small. We’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities we get.”
Bowns’ performance Tuesday would’ve seemed beyond reproach. Her 32 points were a career-high, her eight rebounds a sign that “she’s starting to become a much more complete player,” Herrick said. She displayed an aggressiveness Habersham couldn’t thwart, regularly driving to the basket for either a basket or a foul. The senior went 13-of-14 from the free-throw line, and it was Bowns who scored 10 of North’s first 12 points at the start of the third quarter to deflate any hopes Habersham had of a second-half comeback.
This, Herrick said, is common for Bowns at this time of year. He’s seen it in each of the past three seasons – with the regular season complete, Bowns elevates her play. Last year, it was in the state tournament. Bowns entered averaging 14.4 points per game then scored 22 and 29 points in the first and second rounds, respectively, as North reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
“I think when it comes down to the tournament, overall as a team we just get more focused,” Bowns said. “We know what’s on the line, and we expect to win. We don’t like losing.”
North Forsyth 60, Habersham Central 40
Habersham 6 7 8 19_40
North Forsyth 14 13 17 16_60
Habersham: Davis 11, Gosnell 11, Blackburn 5, Perry 5, Barclay 2, Lovell 2.
North Forsyth: Bowns 32, Corliss 10, Kirby 3, Pefanis 3, Grindle 2, Moye 2, Ogbogu 2, Simpson 2, Palmer 1, Ware 1.