South Forsyth’s boys finally turned the tide in the county’s basketball Civil War.
South beat North Forsyth Tuesday night for the first time since the 2008-09 season, snapping a five-game skid against the Raiders and gaining some much-needed confidence ahead of Friday’s region tilt with GACA coaches poll No. 3 Chattahoochee.
South guard Mark McCorkle scored 20 points in the 56-31 win at Raider Arena, and the War Eagles defense allowed just six successful field goals and 13 second-half points.
“This win’s big,” said South center Nick Graf, who was a freshman the last time his team defeated the Raiders. “North is personally a rival of mine, so I’m always excited about winning against North. … It meant everything to me.”
Forward Douglas Cotter chipped in 12 points for South (4-8, 0-3 Region 7-AAAA), and Graf scored six. Graf was more effective on the defensive end, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking several North shots in the paint.
Forward Caleb Knost led the Raiders (3-11, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAA) with 15 points, but no other North player scored in double figures.
The Raiders shot 13.6 percent from the floor and made just two 3-pointers. Over half their points came from a 20-for-31 night from the foul stripe.
“We’re not going to beat anybody doing that,” North coach Brian Moon said. “We didn’t do anything good, so it’s pretty frustrating. It’ll be a test of these kids’ character, though. Are they going to roll over, or are they going to fight?”
The Raiders battled for a half, trailing 28-23 at the break. McCorkle’s right-wing, NBA-range 3 and up-and-under layup sparked a 9-2 South run to close the third.
The War Eagles led 41-28 after three and held North scoreless from the floor during the final period.
In a contest featuring teams entering with three victories apiece, South scored in double figures in every frame but the second, putting together what coach Kevin Dankosky characterized as its most complete game of the season.
“For the first time, maybe one of the few times, we put four good quarters together,” he said. “I was really proud of our guys because they work real hard, and there’s always that opportunity to become sort of discouraged with the way things are going, but tonight, I give them As across the board.”
McCorkle connected on his first three 3-point attempts in the first, and South led 19-10 heading into the second.
Knost hit back-to-back 3s during an 11-0 North run in the second frame, but the Raiders went on to score just five points in the third and eight in the fourth.
South’s aggressive half-court defense had plenty to do with that, altering the majority of North’s shots and forcing seven second-half turnovers.
A team that’s shown the ability to stay in games with its outside shooting, the Raiders attempted only 12 treys.
The War Eagles’ defensive execution emitted several shouts of “perfect” from its coach.
“I don’t think perfect defense is ever obtainable, but we played near-perfect on certain rotations, at running and jumping to the ball and being in help,” Dankosky said.
South will require a near-flawless performance if it hopes to upset Hooch and Clemson commit Jaron Blossomgame Friday night.
The Raiders face an even tougher task in Milton, which ranks 16th in MaxPreps’ computerized Freeman Rankings and features four seniors headed to major colleges next season.
North Forsyth girls 49, South Forsyth 31
Both teams crawled through nine-point halves, but North’s 40-9 lead at the break was more than enough to lift it past South for the second time this season.
The Lady Raiders (10-4, 0-2) opened the contest on a 16-0 run and never led by less than 15 through the final three quarters. Kim Blake and Kasey Meadows scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, in North’s third straight win.
Coach Eric Herrick’s squad knocked off South 58-39 on Nov. 15 in the Forsyth County Hoopfest and was pleased to vanquish its county rival again, but the Raiders (10-4, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAA) seek more meaningful victories.
“Bottom line, we’ve got to get a region win,” Herrick said. “We’ve done great, we’ve won a lot of basketball games, but you play to go to the state tournament. We’ve got to get some region wins.”
North’s next opportunity for that comes Friday as the Lady Raiders travel to Milton. The War Eagles play the same night against Chattahoochee, which Herrick led to the AAAA semifinals last season.
Ashley Hannan was the lone bright spot for South (5-7, 1-2 Region 7-AAAA), which now has lost three of its last four. The sophomore center scored 13 points, pulled down 14 boards and blocked six shots.
Her efforts helped South outscore North 23-9 during the final two quarters, but the Lady War Eagles’ horrid first half could not be overcome.
“We’ve got to feel better about our effort in the second half,” South coach Keith Gravitt said, “but we’re not going to be happy with the game because of the way that we started. We put ourselves in a situation to be behind.”
The War Eagles went 2-for-18 from the floor in the first half and committed 21 turnovers, struggling mightily against North’s full-court pressure.
South’s had problems breaking presses all season, an issue Gravitt attributed to the team’s practice habits.
“Trying to raise that level of intensity at your practice, I’ll just be honest, we haven’t got it where we want it yet,” he said. “We remind the girls of that, and we can’t have just 45 minutes of intense practice, we’ve got to have an entire practice of intensity and hustle, and that prepares you for whatever team you’re playing.”
The Raiders interspersed all-out man defense with corner traps throughout the first two quarters.
Cailey Abercrombie, Jessika Bagwell, Meadows and Blake each nailed a trey during the first period. Blake added seven more points in the next quarter before North backed off in the second half, content to play keep-away and challenge South’s offensive sets.
“We were up big, and at that point, there’s stuff you’ve got to work on,” Herrick said. “As you saw in the first half, our full-court defense is pretty good, and we’ve got to become a better half-court defensive team and work on executing. … You don’t want to run a score up on someone.”
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter @PhilErvin_FCN