North Forsyth’s road to a Region 6-AAAAAA championship has been long and emotional, one that includes two straight losses in the 2012 and 2013 finals.
But this year was different. This time, the Lady Raiders got their trophy.
In what was one of the most entertaining basketball games of the year, North beat South for the 2014 region title, 49-45, on Tuesday at West Forsyth. South had the ball down by three points with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but guard Sarah Myers committed an untimely offensive foul — sending North guard Sydney Pefanis to the free throw line.
Pefanis hit one of two foul shots, effectively putting the game out of reach. The clock struck zero soon thereafter, sending the Lady Raiders and their fans into a frenzy.
“This has been our goal for a couple years now,” said North head coach Eric Herrick. “We’ve had a great run this season, and it feels wonderful. That’s why coaches put in the time they do … to be able to put that banner up at the end is something I’ll never forget.”
The two teams played each other extremely closely, a far cry from North’s 37-point victory over South earlier in the season. In total there were 11 lead changes—five of which occurred in the second half—and no deficit extended more than six points.
It was a back-and-forth affair from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer with North gaining that extra edge at the waning moments of regulation.
“That could have gone either way,” Herrick said. “South Forsyth is so talented … honestly I don’t know where we pulled ahead.”
In the end, the difference lied in the Lady Raiders’ defense and their ability to make free throws when it mattered most.
South tied things up at 45 with 1:58 left but failed to score again. Senior Avery Scarbrough was a defensive force all night, particularly down the stretch, preventing the Lady War Eagles from generating much offense in the paint.
“South is a really good team, but we came out to play,” said Scarbrough. “We were ready.”
In those last several minutes, Okwunne Ogbogu hit a foul shot, Caroline Bowns hit two and Pefanis put the final nail in the coffin with one of her own. As was the case on Monday against West, North’s clutch free throw shooting got the job done.
The Lady Raiders’ star point guard Lochlain Corliss had another strong game, scoring 15 points en route to tournament MVP honors. However, she fouled out with two minutes left, and the ensuing free throws from her infraction knotted the score.
But North didn’t skip a beat. They stepped up and compensated for Corliss’ absence with their depth and the ability to thrive under pressure.
In addition to Corliss’ 15 points, Bowns finished with 15 and Scarbrough had 11. Senior Kendell Bennett hit two big threes in the first half, both proving to be vital.
Myers scored 17 in the first half for South and 25 overall. Her strong start helped set the tone for the game and allowed the Lady War Eagles to remain competitive from start to finish.