LAWRENCEVILLE – North Forsyth’s Lochlain Corliss and Avery Scarbrough kneeled together next to the scorer’s table, arms around each other, eyes misty. There, they prepared for the inevitable, for something they weren’t quite ready to be a part of: the final minutes of the Lady Raiders’ historic campaign.
As the buzzer sounded, they entered the game; moments later, the buzzer echoed again. And that was it.
Competing in the Elite 8 of the Class AAAAAA tournament, North was unable to overcome a slow start and fell to Archer, 57-39. It was a night of mixed emotions for the Lady Raiders, who were devastated to see their season end, but were able to proudly reflect on how much they accomplished in 2013-14.
There has never been a North girls’ basketball team as good as this one, as evident by the brand new region championship banner that now hangs at Raider Arena.
“We have no regrets,” said head coach Eric Herrick. “We are North Forsyth. We are 28-3. We are region champions and played in the Elite 8.
“There may be a lot of tears in there tonight, but there are a lot of tears of joy, a lot of tears of pride. Those kids have worked their butts off and accomplished every goal we set this year. It’s sad to see it come to an end, but it’s a celebration, it’s not a mourning.”
North was plagued by a slow start against Archer and never recovered. The Lady Raiders didn’t register their first point of the game until 6:34 into the first quarter when Scarbrough hit a free throw.
While North would keep matters relatively close throughout the first two quarters, Archer took over in the final 16 minutes. Junior Amber Skidgel hit three straight 3-pointers for the Lady Tigers to start the second half—putting North down by 15. That gap faintly grew and shrunk throughout the remainder of the game, but a comeback simply wasn’t in the cards for the Lady Raiders.
Ultimately, Archer’s size and defensive prowess proved to be too much for North. The Lady Tigers’ suffocating defense kept the Lady Raiders along the perimeter most of the night, rarely surrendering an uncontested shot.
Archer’s noticeable height advantage with four players 6-feet or taller prevented North from driving to the hoop with much success. Scarbrough, who finished with nine points, fared well down low, but her team struggled as a whole to generate offense in the paint.
Additionally, Archer converted on 18 foul shots to North’s four. In the end, that chasm made all the difference.
“When they have big athletes inside, points are hard to come by,” Herrick said. “[Scarbrough] is 5-foot-11. She may have the heart of a champion, but it’s hard when they have so much size out there.”
While this loss marks the end of North’s season, it also brought an end to the careers of four seniors—including starters Scarbrough and guard Kendall Bennett.
Bennett came into her own this season as a lethal 3-point shooter, providing the Lady Raiders with some clutch baskets down the stretch. With Corliss and Caroline Bowns able to confidentially defer to Bennett, opposing defenses were forced to respect all outside threats — giving North far more open looks than they would have been granted without her services.
“Kendall really found the benefits of working hard this season,” said Herrick. “She put the time in and reaped the benefits. I couldn’t be more proud of Kendall Bennett.”
Scarbrough’s absence will be felt in many different ways next season. Not only was she a dominant force at center, she was a leader whose competitive nature rubbed off on those around her. While she will no longer be a part of North’s program, her impact will be felt by the Lady Raiders for years to come.
“Avery is a warrior,” Herrick said. “She’s the winningest player we’ve ever had. I just wanted let her know how much I appreciate her, how much I love her. If she ever needs anything, I’m there for here.
“Next year, that first practice, the gym’s going to be completely different without Avery’s voice.”