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North Forsyth girls look to defend Raider Classic title
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North Forsyth sophomore forward Maddie Palmer is one of several Lady Raiders who have stepped into bigger roles this season. - photo by File photo

The North Forsyth girls basketball team had just dodged the first bullet of its season, a 43-40 victory over Loganville in which the Lady Raiders let a 15-point third quarter lead vanish, and so head coach Eric Herrick had his first revelatory insight into his team.

"We got to close out games," Herrick said. "…This should not be a team that is inexperienced in closing out basketball games."

North will have opportunities to test its late-game resilience when it hosts the 2014 Causey Orthodontics Raider Classic. The three-day tournament starts tomorrow and continues Monday and Tuesday. Girls and boys brackets feature eight teams each with games from 9:30 a.m., to 8 p.m.

It’s the fourth consecutive season North has hosted the event, and the field of teams, particularly on the girl’s side, has perhaps never been better.

"There are some good basketball teams, some traditional powers," Herrick said. "I think it’s a great field."

Indeed, on the girls side, six of the eight teams made the state playoffs last season, and all advanced past the first round.

The headlining guest is Greater Atlanta Christian coming off an Elite Eight appearance in Class AA. The Lady Spartans are in something of a transition mode. It lost two Division I signees to graduation and hired a new head coach, Lady Grooms, a former star at Georgia and WNBA player.

But there is also Duluth, the Region 7-AAAAAA runner-up last season who lost to North in the second round of the state playoffs. There’s Creekview, who North defeated in the Raider Classic championship last season. There’s Sequoyah, who went 22-8 last season and lost to Southwest DeKalb in the Class AAAAA second round. And Roswell, a 21-9 team a year ago who lost to state runner-up Archer in the Class AAAAAA second round. Alexander and Northview round out the field of girl teams.

All will enter Raider Arena, an unwelcoming venue for visiting teams. North girls have won 23 consecutive games at home since a 49-42 loss to Alpharetta on Dec. 20, 2012.

"We feel pretty good on this court, so we want to keep that streak going," Herrick said. "We feel like this is a special place to play, and we feel very comfortable here."

North is still getting comfortable with its roster coming off the best season in school history. That was clear Tuesday night. Sure, the Lady Raiders led 26-6 in the second quarter and 35-22 in the third quarter. But Loganville whittled North’s lead down to 42-40 with a minute left thanks to a rash of turnovers and missed free throws by the Lady Raiders.

North needed a block and free throw by varsity newcomer Maddie Palmer, a sophomore forward, with 1.7 seconds left to hold on, underscoring that this, as always, is a new season.

"We’re not playing our best basketball now, and I’m glad we’re not," Herrick said. "There are probably teams in our region playing better than us or playing better than us right now. We’ve got new kids assuming new roles, and we’ve just got to have that mentality that we’re going to get better every game, every day."

The Raider Classic is the perfect place to do just that.

2014 CAUSEY ORTHODONTICS RAIDER CLASSIC

All games at North Forsyth High School

Girls Bracket

Saturday, Nov. 22

Game 1: Northview vs. Sequoyah, 9:30 a.m.

Game 2: Duluth vs. Alexander, 12:30 p.m.

Game 3: GAC vs. Creekview, 3:33 p.m.

Game 4: Roswell vs. North Forsyth, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 24

Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 9:30 a.m.

Game 6: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 12:30 p.m.

Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3:30 p.m.

Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 9:30 a.m.

Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 12:30 p.m.

Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 3:30 p.m.

Championship: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6:30 p.m.

Boys Bracket

Saturday, Nov. 22

Game 1: Northview vs. Creekview, 11 a.m.

Game 2: Roswell vs. West Forsyth, 2 p.m.

Game 3: Flowery Branch vs. Duluth, 5 p.m.

Game 4: Sequoyah vs. North Forsyth, 8 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 24

Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 11 a.m.

Game 6: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m.

Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m.

Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 11 a.m.

Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2 p.m.

Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 5 p.m.

Championship: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8 p.m.