Keith Gravitt didn’t want Saturday’s Cherokee-Forsyth Challenge to be just any basketball event.
As South Forsyth’s athletic director and girls basketball coach, he wanted to find a way to impact a cause that has personally touched him and many others. In 2016, one of his seniors, Caroline Diem, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. With that in mind, he lobbied for the event to double as a fundraiser for Cure, a charity that specializes in research to fight childhood cancer, to overwhelming agreement by his fellow coaches.
“I've always wanted to do something like this,” Gravitt said. “I really have to give a lot of credit to our principal. As we ended last school year, she talked about the fact that our students support causes, and can we find ways through our athletic events to do something for different causes in our community ... This was one that easily came to mind with me.”
And with four Forsyth County girls teams in attendance, with some competitive teams from Cherokee, there was plenty of good basketball as well, with West Forsyth and Forsyth Central earning wins over Sequoyah and Etowah, respectively. Lambert and Gravitt’s War Eagles fell short against River Ridge and Cherokee, respectively.
Lambert’s girls played the first game of the day against River Ridge, falling 55-23 in a game that was never really close. The Longhorns fell behind quickly, with the offense not able to break through the Knights’ pressure.
After one quarter, the Longhorns trailed 13-3. Lambert was only able to tack on three more points for the rest of the first half, and entered the third quarter with a 24-6 deficit, which ultimately culminated in the loss.
In the second game of the afternoon, West Forsyth started off slowly against Sequoyah, but the Wolverines turned their offense around in the second half to take a 47-37 victory, improving their overall record to 9-0 overall.
Early on, the Chiefs were playing well defensively, with their press preventing the Wolverines from getting into a rhythm. When West did get good looks, they couldn’t connect on the shots, and at the end of the first quarter, the Wolverines trailed 12-5.
Calie Thrower converted a 3-pointer with 5:35 left to break up a Sequoyah run. Subsequent shots from Kalie Thrower and Cayla Cowart put West on a 7-0 run.
“Calie Thrower stepped up and hit some big shots for us in the second half that we were getting in the first half but just weren't going down,” West girls coach David May said. “She stepped up and knocked those down in the second half to give us a little cushion.”
“We just played with a little more intensity,” May said. “I think we were able to wear them down a little bit with our pressure. They started turning the ball over in the second half, we rebounded better in the second half. We still didn't play very smart, but we've just got to make corrections there.”
The Wolverines were very much in it down 21-18 at the halfway point, but in the third, a Calie Thrower three broke a 29-29 tie for her team’s first lead of the game. West took a 34-29 lead into the fourth quarter and did enough to stay ahead for the win.
Against Etowah, Forsyth Central was in control from the beginning en route to a 55-43 win. The Bulldogs began the game with a 9-0 run, leading to a 16-8 edge after one quarter.
A 3-pointer from Aisha Dabo with 4:44 left in the first half helped the Bulldogs to a 34-23 advantage at the break. A three from Ansley Carver made it 44-33 in the waning minutes of the third quarter, and Central never gave up its lead.
South had its hands full early and throughout against a very good Cherokee team, falling 71-46 in the last game of the afternoon. The War Eagles fell behind 7-0 out of the opening tip, and the Warriors created plenty of problems on the way to a 36-17 halftime lead.
“We didn't shoot the ball very well, we gave up a lot of transition baskets, and those are things you can't do against very good teams,” Gravitt said.
Ashley Breindl and Ryane Williams opened the second half by giving South some momentum, but it was not enough to overcome the large deficit. It was the War Eagles’ second straight double-digit loss after losing to Woodstock on Friday, but Gravitt is focusing on the positives.
”We're grateful for the last two nights not because we didn't win, but because I think we found some things that we need to work on to get better as we get into region play next week,” he said.