Heading into Friday’s contest against West Forsyth, North junior Caroline Bowns knew her 1,000th point as a Lady Raider was well within reach. She had spent some time envisioning how she would achieve this goal, and during class told assistant coach/teacher Brad Kudlas that she’d like to earn it on a three-pointer.
Lo and behold, her wish came true. Midway through the second quarter, Bowns knocked down a three from the left corner to reach the milestone—extending the Lady Raiders’ lead to 14, and sending the crowd into a state of pandemonium.
The Lady Raiders (16-0, 6-0) then went on win, 60-27, giving Bowns and her team a lot to celebrate.
"It was really exciting," Bowns said of her accomplishment. "It was fun to be out there with my team and it’s something special I’ll remember forever."
Bowns finished the game with 12 points, and point guard Lochlain Corliss led the way with 16. It was a much better performance from the Lady Raiders than Tuesday, and their strong showing made it easy to keep their undefeated record intact.
"Our intensity was different [from Tuesday]," said head coach Eric Herrick. "Our game plan was pretty successful and I attribute that to our girls putting pressure on the basketball at all times.
"Staiti wasn’t 100 percent, so they were at a disadvantage there."
Indeed, West Forsyth sophomore Jenna Staiti was not her normal self. In her return from an ankle injury—which has kept her out since Dec. 13—the 6-foot-5 center saw limited playing time for West (9-5, 3-3) and rested for the entire second half.
With a busy schedule on the horizon—including games Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and next Friday—head coach David May felt it was best to ease Staiti back into action.
"She’s fine, it’s just a matter of getting back into game shape," he said. "We gave our younger kids a chance to play and show us some things."
May also believes a healthy Staiti likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome given the strength of West’s opponent.
"[North] is undefeated for a reason," he said. "They played really well; they’re aggressive, they play hard and are extremely tough.
"There’s nothing really bad to say about them."
May’s assessment is an accurate one. When Staiti was in the game, North was able to compensate for its inability to drive to the hoop with sharp perimeter shooting. Defensively, the Lady Raiders contained Staiti, who finished with five points.
"We play man-to-man [defense], but when Staiti touches the ball, we put all five on her," Herrick said. "She’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen, so if she gets it down low, we’re going to do whatever we can to get it out."
Additionally, North was able to score often after turnovers and in transition—preventing Staiti and West’s other physical players from getting set in the paint. Corliss in particular took advantage of those opportunities.
"That was our game plan: to put some pressure on them and create some easy transition points," Herrick added. "For us that’s key. We don’t have a [6-foot-5] player; we’re a small basketball team.
"We need to create easy scoring opportunities and we have to do that through our defense by creating turnovers and moving the ball up the court quickly."
The two teams don’t play again until Feb. 4 at West. By then, Staiti could be back to full strength and North could still be unbeaten.
"I’m sure it’s going to be different at their place," said Herrick. "It should be a heck of a game."