For the South Forsyth boys basketball team, their late-game execution -- or lack thereof -- has been key to the War Eagles' recent performance.
South head coach Scott Givens said the team had been having a "rough month," and the team's 2-7 record in January support that assessment. But a closer look at those scores is more charitable for the War Eagles: In their 61-57 loss to Lambert, they were within a basket of the Longhorns with less than 30 seconds to play; In their 61-55 loss to Milton, South led by two points at halftime.
The War Eagles' 53-43 win over North Forsyth on Friday night, then, was a needed boost for a team hoping to better its positioning for the region tournament and give the teams in the region's top half a run.
"We've played a lot of close ballgames and come up short," South head coach Scott Givens said. "It wasn't pretty tonight, but we needed to get a W. We needed to get a W for confidence."
Givens and the War Eagles (8-15, 3-5 Region 5-7A) know that the team's ideal environment is when a game's pace is slower and the score is in the low 60s, at the highest. North's deliberate play made it easy for the War Eagles to do that on Friday, and their advantages in length and post play, especially with the duo of Devin McGlockton and Fred Scott, helped them stay in front for the entire game.
The action was particularly slow in the second half, when South shot 17 free throws and made 15 of them. But that pace is better for the War Eagles than the breakneck speed employed by teams like Lambert and West Forsyth.
"We've got to embrace what our identity is," Givens said. "And that's what our identity is: games that are in the 50s, and maybe high 50s."
At this point in the season, the region has become separated into two tiers, with Lambert, West and Milton possessing winning records and South, North and Forsyth Central fighting for a state playoff berth.
But with their experience -- nine seniors and four juniors -- and track record of close defeats, the War Eagles don't think their current position is the team's ceiling. They get a chance against both Lambert and West next week.
"It's just making that final push in the last few quarters that we have to work on," said senior guard Santhosh Saravanan, who led South with 10 points. "Once we get that down, I think we can beat any team in the region."
North Forsyth girls 36, South 22
The girls game was another low-scoring affair, with the teams settling into a defensive stalemate at times, exchanging drives ending in jump shots that didn't fall. The Raiders broke through by forcing the bulk of the game's turnovers and getting key three-pointers to gradually build offensive momentum.
The score after the first quarter was 7-4 in favor of North (20-2, 8-0 Region 5-7A), and at halftime, the Raiders led 16-9. North opened the scoring in the third quarter with a transition layup from Caroline Martin less than 30 seconds in, but the Raiders didn't get their next basket, a three-pointer from Bella Caracciolo, until there were less than four minutes remaining.
South (14-9, 5-3) couldn't take advantage of North's cold shooting, though, and managed just five field goals in the second half. War Eagles senior forward Zoe Maisel led all scorers with 12 points, and Catherine Shope led North with nine.