Jenna Staiti made the go-ahead field goal, and Jane Ortlip knocked down two key free throws in the final minute as West Forsyth edged county rival North Forsyth, 55-54, Friday night in Coal Mountain.
North’s Kelsey Johnson hit a mid-range jumper, just over the out-stretched arms of the 6-foot-5 Staiti, that bounced around and in with 7.6 seconds left to cut the deficit to one, then Hailey Simpson grabbed the ensuing missed free throw and had a chance for the winning field goal, but traveled just before the final buzzer.
“You can’t go into every game expecting to win by a large margin,” West coach David May said. “They’re a state playoff team and it showed.”
West (6-1, 5-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) led early, but fell behind 21-11 in the second quarter after a 15-2 run where the Lady Wolverines were frustrated with fouls and turnovers. Much like North’s game on Tuesday against Lambert, the Lady Raiders (2-4, 1-3) frustrated West on the defensive end, but Staiti, the Maryland signee, still finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and an assist, along with going 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
“She’s been around for a while,” North head coach Eric Herrick said. “We’ve played this team probably 13 or 14 times with her there. You’ve got to take her away and make somebody else beat you. I thought we did a pretty good job with her tonight.”
Johnson had a career game for the Raiders. A senior guard, she’s been used sparingly by Herrick after recovering from an ACL tear last season, but was first off the bench and finished 9-of-13 shooting with four 3-pointers, including three in a row. Before the game, Johnson had never hit a 3-pointer in her career.
“She’s just finally getting back to full strength,” Herrick said. “We thought we had a nice matchup tonight so we gave her a try.”
Point guard Morgan Grindle finished with four assists, often pulling Staiti’s eyes with deep drives and passes, and knocked down two 3-pointers of her own, along with 9 of 10 free throws.
West point guard Hayla Seitz knocked down key jumpers in the second half after being reluctant to take open looks in the first half—a result of North’s attention on Staiti. She finished with four assists, four rebounds, a steal and six points.
“Being aggressive is one thing we talked about at halftime,” May said. “Hayla can shoot, she’s just so unselfish. We told her to keep being aggressive and it paid off.”
Ortlip added eight points, two steals and two assists. West will face Northview on the road in a region game on Tuesday, while North will play at Alpharetta.