The North Forsyth Lady Raiders have won a lot of basketball games this season with sound, conventional game plans, aiding them en route to 18 straight wins to start the year and a 24-2 record.
Monday’s 60-47 victory over West Forsyth in the Region 6-AAAAA semi-final, however, was the result of an unconventional strategy, one found deep in coaches’ playbooks.
With four and a half minutes left in regulation, North led West by two after trailing through much of the second half. Point guard Lochlain Corliss dribbled the ball past half court, looked around -- then stopped.
The Lady Raiders held onto the ball for about two and a half minutes without any resistance. Without a shot clock in high school basketball, no rule prevents a team from stalling. Quickly, the clock was nearing double zeroes.
On the surface, it’s easy to disapprove of this tactic; if it doesn’t work out, the criticism will be vast. But for North head coach Eric Herrick, it was worth the risk.
And it made perfect sense.
North’s starting center Avery Scarbrough was stuck on the bench with four fouls, and the Lady Raiders knew they needed her down the stretch—especially with 6-foot-5 Jenna Staiti on the court for the Lady Wolverines.
By winding the clock down, Herrick was able to get Scarbrough in for a higher percentage of action with less risk that she’d foul out.
An unconventional move, yes. But a successful one.
“We were willing to hold onto it as long as they were willing to let us,” said Herrick. “Once they came out to guard us, we were ready to play. It was one of those things, you have to give your team the best opportunity to win and have your best players on the floor.
“I don’t think the fans loved it — our fans probably did — but oh well.”
The rest of regulation may not have worked out perfectly for the Lady Raiders, but they certainly got the job done. North drew three straight fouls when Corliss finally pushed the ball forward, the last of which led to a one-and-one situation for Sydney Pefanis. She made the first free throw to push the lead to three.
It was still a one possession game at that point, but West had lost its rhythm amidst the stagnation. Corliss, Scarbrough and Caroline Bowns hit a combined 10 free throws down the stretch to turn what was a close, even contest into a clear-cut win for North.
Scarbrough’s two foul shots put the final nail in West’s coffin. Whether or not she would have been in the game had North not run the clock out, we will never know.
“Those free throws were a big deal,” said Corliss. “We practice those because we know we’re going to be put in that situation when you have to make those shots to win the game.”
Staiti composed another dominating performance for West, scoring 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Her effort alone was not enough, though, as North’s depth was simply too much for the Lady Wolverines.
But West gave the Lady Raiders a run for their money, keeping the game close until the very end. Had a few extra bounces gone in West’s favor, the outcome could have been different.
“They’re a heck of a basketball team, David May is a great coach,” said Herrick. “They have a bright future … Jenna is as good of a basketball player as this area is ever going to see.”
The Lady Wolverines have come a long way this season, and their ability to compete with North exemplifies that progress: on Jan. 10, the Lady Raiders beat them 60-27.
North will now take on South for the Region 6-AAAAAA title Tuesday at 7 p.m., at West. The Lady Wolverines will face Centennial in the region consolation game at 4 p.m.