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Basketball: Lakeside Middle wins back-to-back 8th-grade championships
Lakeside Middle school
Lakeside Middle poses in front of the playoff banner after winning the Forsyth County 8th-grade girls basketball championship. - photo by Derrick Richemond

It was the second consecutive year that the South Forsyth Eagles and the Lakeside Lions met in the Forsyth County 8th-grade girls basketball championship game.

Lakeside came into the game undefeated in the regular season and showed why by defeating South Forsyth, 48-32, to repeat as the best 8th-grade basketball team in the county.

Dylan Austin led the way for the Lions offense by scoring a team-high of points with 14. Sophia Vallianatos followed right behind her with 12 points in the Jan. 28 game at Denmark High.

The first score of the game came when Ava Degliumberto waited for her teammate to cut down the middle to feed her, and she laid the ball up with ease. Lakeside started half-court pressure on the Eagles, and it worked, forcing South Forsyth into a backcourt violation.

“They’re super excited, and I'm super proud of how they came out,” Lakeside head coach ​​Quinten Foster said of the team's emotions. "Two years in a row with a lot of hard work and dedication. We’re proud to win [back to back]." 

The growth Foster saw from his team in the title game was something he enjoyed watching.

“Every game I preached to the girls ‘Never focus so much on the past. Let's get to the present and let's execute the best we can,' and that’s what we did today,” Foster said.

After an Eagles turnover, point guard Avynn Kniceley used the screen to get by her defender and that freed up some space for her to hit a mid-range jumper. Then after an Eagles missed 3-pointer, the Lions drew up a play for a wide-open 3 for a 7-1 lead.

Loren Withrite scored the first five points for the Eagles after making a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Although, the Lions responded with a triple of their own once again when Mary Grace Margiotta dished it out to Austin for a wide-open 3-pointer.

On the next possession, the Lions made another wide-open shot, which amplified the crowd.

An Eagle sliced through the defense to get in the paint, and she got fouled on her layup attempt but still made it for an and-1, cutting the deficit to 22-18.

The Lions were able to tack on another bucket before halftime to grow their confidence and take a 24-22 lead into the third quarter.

The second half began on a good note for Lakeside’s defense, with Degliumberto recording a steal. After missing the initial shot, Kniceley grabbed the rebound for a short jumper for a 26-22 lead.

Margiotta froze her defender with a pump fake and kicked it out to Austin for her second wide-open 3-pointer, building a 31-24 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions defense really stepped up and gave the Eagles a tough time getting a basket.

With Vallianatos and Austin handling the Lions offense, the team was able to stay afloat. The Lions outscored the War Eagles 15-4 to secure the championship.

“We practiced yesterday and really focused on making sure we were prepared,” Foster said of the defense in the final quarter. "We take our team to analyze everything and come prepared."