For Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
It was closer than South Forsyth would have liked.
What had been a comfortable, 16-point lead midway through the third quarter had all but evaporated with the Longhorns pulling within a single point inside of the final 5 minutes.
When Lambert senior Mason Barnes sank his game-high sixth 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining, South's lead sat at three.
South began their possession, the Horns fouled quickly and War Eagle senior Devin McGlockton stepped up to the free-throw line with a chance to cement his team’s first region win of the season.
He dribbled, breathed and promptly sank both shots — effectively ending the game, with the one exception being a final hurled 3-point attempt from Barnes that sailed wide, and slapping the final punctuation on South’s 67-62 victory.
“Well, we wanted to be 1-0 after tonight and we’re 1-0,” South head coach Scott Givens said. “The first half had a nice flow to it. We got into a little foul trouble, they got into a little foul trouble and it kind of became a guards game, but we handled our business in the first half. Then the second half we jumped on them and then I think we just relaxed, and you can’t do that.”
The first quarter ended with a 14-12 War Eagle lead. Both teams missed a number of shots early while South leapt out to a slight edge in rebounds and made all four of their free throws.
In the second quarter, newly transferred senior Brandon Stoudamire began to settle in, and with him settled in the South offense.
The War Eagles finished the half on a 12-3 run with Stoudamire contributing 10 points and six of them on a trio of electrifying dunks in the final minutes.
“Brandon Stoudamire was outstanding,” Givens said of his guard, who finished his night 6 of 14 for 18 points and making both of his free throws. “Devin (McGlockton) was outstanding too in the minutes that he played. He made those two final big free throws and had a huge dunk that gave us some breathing room.”
South carried its momentum into the second half, with McGlockton following a pair of Longhorn misses with breakaway layups and his first points of the game. By the time Lambert called its first timeout of the half with 4:13 remaining, South led by a score of 50-34.
Then came the Longhorns.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Givens said. “You counter runs by scoring but you’ve gotta get stops, and we started having a hard time getting stops and we started turning the ball over.”
Lambert’s run began immediately following its timeout, with senior Paul Languana ending South’s string of unanswered points with two of his own.
Less than a minute and two more Lambert points later, Languana hustled down court to make a leaping block of what initially had looked like an easy shot for South junior Gavin Morris, and then finished the possession on the opposite end of the court by driving through a pair of War Eagle defenders and adding yet another pair of points.
While the Longhorn offense began coming alive, the defense also began making itself known, harassing the South throw-in attempts with a quasi-full-court press that became increasingly aggressive as the game went on and notching a pair of third-quarter steals.
The Horns outscored their hosts 22-15 in the third, with sophomore Niko Wilson settling in after a relatively slow first half to score 10 of his 14 points in the third quarter alone, and cutting his team’s deficit to just five points at the start of the fourth.
“I told the guys even when we jumped up on them, I said they’re not going anywhere,” Givens said. “They’re going to come back and make a run. I was hoping it wouldn’t get that close, but you’ve got to give them credit. They fought and competed, but we fought and competed and finished.”
South eventually stopped the bleeding midway through the final quarter, answering back at last with a pair of crucial steals and resulting layups from junior Ethan Underwood and a massive, momentum-stealing dunk by McGlockton. Barnes added a final pair of 3s to finish his night with a game-high 25 points, but the Horns would quite manage to do any more than threaten South’s lead.
Stoudamire led the War Eagles in scoring with 20 points, followed by Underwood’s 13 and McGlockton’s 12.
The South girls notched their first region win earlier in the evening to the tune of a 48-20 route of visiting Lambert. Sophomore Sharon Tolliver led the way for the War Eagles with 13 points in a game that South maintained firm control of from start to finish.