There was so much more that Ethan Underwood wanted to experience.
In his first appearance in the state playoffs on Thursday, the South Forsyth sophomore was certainly learning what postseason basketball was all about, with the War Eagles playing a tightly contested first-round game against Parkview.
While South got off to a good start, the Panthers began to gain ground late in the first half, and in the middle of the third, they surpassed the War Eagles. Underwood, who had just two buckets for the game at that point, wasn’t about to let his opportunity slip away.
“I just didn't want to go home, man,” Underwood said. “I want to play McEachern (and five-star recruit) Sharife Cooper there. I'm just not going home.”
And thanks in part to his late-game efforts on Thursday night, he won’t have to. Underwood connected on two threes to end the third period, and after adding another two points, South was ahead by one going into the fourth, when he added another three to start that frame.
The War Eagles didn’t give up their edge again, and after a 62-53 win, Underwood will get his wish — South will make the trip to McEachern next week.
“We just grinded it out, man,” South boys coach Scott Givens said. “We got stops when we needed to, we made free throws, we made shots. I think this is part of our maturation and maturity from last year to this year.
“I'm just super proud of them. We were really, really fortunate to be at home, but we earned the right to be at home and we took care of business.”
South started its night with a 9-0 run, with Underwood, Devin McGlockton and Thomas Stocks all contributing. Parkview constantly looked for deep shots, which the War Eagles defended well early on en route to a 17-12 first-quarter lead.
“I think it all starts with the chemistry we have in this team,” Underwood said. “We're all a big family and we trust each other. We knew this team would shoot it on the first sight every time and we knew we had that chemistry over them.”
But while the War Eagles continued to shoot decently well inside, they weren’t finding that same effectiveness beyond the arc. While South led 25-23 at the half, it didn’t make a single 3-pointer until Stocks connected from deep with just under five minutes left in the third, while Parkview was busy catching up.
“I was frustrated because I didn't think we were executing,” Givens said. “I thought we were doing some silly stuff. But it's just basketball, and our kids are very resilient, they're very tough ... I've got an unbelievable group.”
After Underwood’s heroics, South was up 42-41 entering the fourth, and combined with late efforts from McGlockton and Nate Hammond, the War Eagles snagged the win in front of their loud home crowd.
“Playing at home matters,” Givens said. “We got the crowd here, we're used to the surroundings ... That's not always the end-all-be-all, but playing at home certainly matters.”
McGlockton led South with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, while Underwood added 17 points, four assists and four rebounds. Stocks finished his night with eight points, four assists and two steals.