Lochlain Corliss calls her North Forsyth team the most superstitious group she’s ever been around. The Lady Raiders eat their pregame meals at Zaxbys, sit on the same side of the bleachers and listen to the same playlist of music.
And, paramount to any game preparations: Skittles.
Corliss and fellow senior Caroline Bowns started the tradition when, after struggling in the first half of a game, the pair dined on the chewy, round (and, admittedly, delicious) candy at halftime. They played a strong second half and have been doing it ever since.
While the nutritional merits of such a snack may be up for debate, the results aren’t: North went 73-18 in Corliss’ first three seasons, including two Sweet 16 appearances and a Region 6-AAAAAA title and Elite Eight run last year. The Lady Raiders are 15-2 and 9-1 in region play this season.
"Once we got that region title last year, now this year was the most pressure because we’ve got to defend that title," Corliss said. "Winning is essential."
Corliss made varsity as a freshman, even after focusing mostly on soccer in middle school. Corliss and Bowns have been playing basketball together since elementary school, but coach Eric Herrick’s arrival at North four years ago gave Corliss a new outlook—and an excuse to escape the cold weather she despises.
"When I got to high school, I realized that basketball is what I love and what I want to do until I can’t anymore…" Corliss said. "I like being able to lead and having the basketball in my hands to control the team, making the right decisions; it’s more fun for me. I credit that to Herrick for helping me figure that out."
As a sophomore, Corliss averaged 10 points and more than three steals per game. Last year, Corliss upped her scoring average, doubled her assist total and again swiped north of three steals per contest. Now, 17 games into her senior year, she’s averaging a career-high 5.3 assists and is perhaps the county’s best perimeter defender. And, most importantly for a team that lost All-County forward Avery Scarbrough, her scoring (13.9 per game) and three-point shooting (49 percent) abilities are better than ever.
Corliss spent hours and put up countless shots in North’s gym this summer, with the help of Herrick and a passing gun.
"I got a lot of reps from 3. In the past, I haven’t been one to shoot 3s because we’ve had plenty of other girls who can do it," Corliss said. "Now, someone else besides Caroline needed to step up and fill that role."
College coaches love players who have led winning programs, and Corliss fits that description. She’s entertaining offers from several Division II programs, the Air Force Academy, and a walk-on spot at Georgia.
For Corliss, few local basketball role models existed in her formative years. That’s all changing, though, thanks to a group of AAU teammates spread throughout Forsyth County high schools—Jenna Staiti at West; Sarah Myers, KK Storms and Shelby Threlkeld at South; and Corliss and Bowns—all part of what’s been a golden few years for girls hoops in the county.
Attend, say, North’s home game against West on Friday, and it’ll be hard to miss the groups of middle school girls there to watch what have become top-five teams in Georgia.
"They’re our supporters at every game, and I feel weird if they’re not at our games because I’m so used to seeing and hearing their support," Corliss said. "It makes me excited to see what they can bring in a few years."
As the Lady Raiders’ practice drew to a close on a rainy Monday afternoon, Corliss expressed her displeasure with a 30-minute shootaround planned for 7:30 on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of North’s home date against Lambert, which ended too late for this edition.
Herrick expressed his displeasure with Corliss’s displeasure, in no uncertain terms, and then dismissed his team—nothing personal.
"I would much rather play for someone who gets in my face and not someone who’s going to baby me," Corliss said. "If somebody jumps on me, I’ll respond better to that. I like playing for such an intense coach who will make us run at any time because it makes us a better team."
After all, there’s more winning to be done, Corliss said: Final Four, and maybe even more.