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North Forsyth girls defeat Sequoyah to win Raider Classic
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North Forsyth junior guard Morgan Grindle's 3-pointer with 2:06 left in the game gave the Lady Raiders their first lead at 50-49, erasing a 16-point fourth quarter deficit. - photo by Brian Paglia

Through the first two games of the 2014 Causey Orthodontics Raider Classic, North Forsyth girls basketball coach Eric Herrick hadn’t learned anything new about his team. “Absolutely nothing,” he said, for he already knew the Lady Raiders could score, and in particular, shoot, and nothing about North’s wins against Roswell and Creekview changed that diagnosis.

But he and the Lady Raiders learned plenty in the fourth quarter of a 56-53 victory over Sequoyah on Friday that earned North its second straight Raider Classic championship and extended its home winning streak to 26 games.

It was along the tension-filled climb from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit, in a maelstrom of turnovers and transition baskets and 3-pointers, that the Lady Raiders (5-0, 1-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) exuded a new quality.

“I learned tonight that we’ve got fight in us,” Herrick said.

Predictably, North guards Caroline Bowns and Lochlain Corliss led the fight with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Of their 34 combined points, 18 came in the pivotal fourth quarter. Sydney Pefanis added 10 points, including two free throws in the waning seconds to keep Sequoyah (3-1) at bay.

It wasn’t until Corliss converted a three-point play on a steal and transition lay-up that North finally cut Sequoyah’s lead to single digits at 44-36.

It wasn’t until Bowns made a 3-pointer in the corner and was fouled by Sequoyah center Kelly Hartman (12 points, 10 rebounds) that North was convinced it could complete the comeback. The deficit was down to five, and Hartman had fouled out with 5:02 left in the game.

“I think that was honestly the turning point,” Bowns said. “That was when we knew that we got this, like we are not losing on our court in a championship game to a team we played literally two weeks ago.”

Indeed, North had dispatched Sequoyah in a scrimmage Nov. 14, but through three quarters Friday the Lady Chiefs were in control. They raced out to a 6-0 lead that prompted Herrick to call a timeout. They used their advantages of size and length to dominate on the boards as Kelly and Lauren Hartman, sister forwards for the Lady Chiefs, combined for 20 points and 20 rebounds.

“We had about three of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve had in a long time,” Herrick said. “No energy, and credit Sequoyah. They came out and played extremely physical. They did a lot of good things early on us. We were playing their style of basketball.”

So it wasn’t until Herrick deployed the last available version of North’s full-court press in the fourth quarter that the Lady Raiders came to life. North started face-guarding Sequoyah off every inbounds pass, and the Lady Chiefs gradually imploded.

“Figured nothing else is working,” Herrick said. “Go out and see if it was effective, and it obviously was.”

When junior guard Morgan Grindle hit a 3 in the corner, North took its first lead of the game at 50-49 with 2:06 left in the game.

When Sequoyah’s desperation 3 as time expired fell harmlessly to the court, the Lady Raiders left Raider Arena with a more complete picture of themselves this season. Now they know something about how they handle those most dire situations on the court.

“We don’t give up,” Corliss said. “We never have, and we never will.”

Bowns added a footnote: “And we don’t lose at home.”