By MacKenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
NORCROSS – South Forsyth girls basketball head coach Keith Gravitt said after last Friday’s win over North Gwinnett that his War Eagle squad would have to play near perfectly to advance deeper in to the Class 7A state playoffs.
Norcross, the No. 1 seed in their side of the bracket, used their size advantage and defensive pressure as the Blue Devils beat South 74-54 Wednesday night to end the War Eagles’ season.
“They were very physical in the post, and that showed tonight,” Gravitt said. “I feel like even though they went on a run in the second half, the first half is where it got away from us.”
The combination of forward Yamani Paul and Devyn Wilson scored 41 of the Blue Devil’s 74 points, with 23 of those coming in the first 16 minutes of the game. Norcross interim coach Dani Wright knew South’s ability to switch defenses quickly would cause some hiccups, but the Blue Devils stuck to their game plan of getting the ball down low.
“They really changed it up a lot on our girls, but at the end of the day, we just kept saying, ‘Hey, work it inside, get an isolation with Yamani,’ and our girls really took that to heart,” Wright said.
South Forsyth would hang tough in the first quarter, inching within two points on a Zoe Maisel bucket late in the first quarter. But three turnovers on four possessions extended the Lady Blue Devil lead to 10 points just before the first horn.
Norcross would take advantage of 28 South Forsyth turnovers, leading to 24 points, including 16 points in the first half.
“If we take away just half of those, and not that we’re going to convert on all of them, it’s a much closer game,” Gravitt said. “That’s been our Achilles’ Heel in a lot of games when the other team pressures us.”
The Blue Devils’ lead increased to 26 late in the third quarter after a high-percentage shot from Paul. The War Eagles would get some offense going in the fourth quarter as two straight baskets by Sophie Rosin, along with free throws, and a three-point basket by Ashley Breindl helped bring the War Eagles within 64-49 with 3:57 left in the game.
But whenever Norcross needed a stop, Paul was there with another quick bucket to curb South’s momentum late.
Gravitt still credits his team’s effort for not backing down despite the large deficit.
“That’s been their identity for the past three weeks,” Gravitt said. “They have battled and battled and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Maisel scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the second half in her final game as a War Eagle. Breindl chipped in with 13 points. Ryane Williams had seven points.
“We’re sad to lose this group of seniors,” Gravitt said. “They’ve been a part of a lot of wins in their four years in the program. They’ve put in a lot of work and they’ve helped lay the groundwork to have this program succeed in the years to come.”
South ends the season at 18-11.