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Basketball: South holds off Lambert for shot at region title
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South Forsyth senior Devin McGlockton, right, shoots over Lambert senior Joao Moreira during Tuesday's 63-59 win over the Longhorns in the Region 6-7A semifinal game. - photo by David Roberts

Players and coaches tend to develop certain superstitions during winning streaks.

Wes Kane isn't any different, and with South Forsyth's 15-game streak on the line Tuesday against Lambert, he wasn't taking any chances.

"Sometimes it's outfits I wear to school," Kane said. "I have joggers and I have basic sweatpants. If they're not cut around the ankles, like very tight around the ankles, sometimes I think that's bad luck."

Kane left those in the dresser before school Tuesday and South punched its ticket to the Region 6-7A championship game with a 63-59 win against the Longhorns.

The War Eagles had three players in double figures, as Ethan Underwood led South with 18 points and Devin McGlockton and Brandon Stoudamire each had 13, with McGlockton adding 16 rebounds. 

Stoudamire briefly left the game in the third quarter and South head coach Scott Givens turned to Kane as his replacement. Kane needed only a couple of minutes to make his presence known.

Lambert had just tied the game for the first time all night, 31-31, when Kane caught the pass at the top of the key and knocked down a 3-pointer off a trail three.

"I caught it wide open and I just knew I had to shoot it," Kane said. "It's one of those plays that's a good opportunity for me.

"I really know my role on this team, and when Brandon came out, I know he's a very physical presence and I knew I had to bring that to help Devin on the back side. Lambert's a very physical, fast, tough team, so I knew when I got my number called that I had to go in there and help."

That shot sparked a 10-4 South run that ended with an Underwood 3-pointer, his third of the night, and allowed the War Eagles to stem the tide.

"That three that Wes hit was really huge," Givens said. "They had the momentum on their side, and that was a big three."

Underwood hit two 3-pointers early and was part of South's outside shooting game that knocked down five of its first six chances from behind the arc.

Lowry Hicks buried a 3 on South's first possession, followed by one from Underwood and another by Hicks, staking the War Eagles out to a 9-0 lead. Underwood's second trey made it 12-4, and when McGlockton hit one two possessions later, it forced Lambert head coach Scott Bracco to call a timeout down 17-6.

"We came out hot, but I think that was kind of some fool's gold a little bit," Givens said. "We were hot, but sometimes when you do that, you forget where your bread and butter is. Our bread and butter is inside with Devin and Brandon. We figured that out and we got the 50-50 balls we needed."

Lambert regrouped and found success pressing South and forcing a couple of turnovers. Mason Barnes and Paul Lunguana each scored a layup off a South turnover at the end of the first quarter.

Lambert's defense held South to only eight points in the second quarter, and Barnes and Niko Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut South's lead to 26-20 with 3:20 left in the half. A pair of James Tyre free throws made it a one-point game at halftime. 

Kane's third-quarter 3 gave South a 34-31 lead, and Underwood's shot pushed the War Eagles' lead to 41-35, but Tyre's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter made it a one-possession game.

Tyre scored 10 of his 13 points after halftime. Barnes had a game-high 20 points and Lunguana added 16.

McGlockton answered Tyre's shot with a three-point play of his own, drawing a foul on a hard drive into the paint and knocking down the free throw, but Tyre's second 3-pointer of the quarter made it 56-50 with 1:44 left.

After trading possessions, Lunguana sank a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to two points with 47 seconds left, but Underwood hit a couple of clutch free throws and Stoudamire's three-point play served as the dagger to give South the win.

South's victory is the team's 16th in a row.

"I think it's really just come down to team bonding," Kane said. "We spend a lot of time together and we're all selfless in the locker room. We're a very good team and we connect very well. We all play off each other. We're very good together and we mesh well together, so I think that's why we're on a streak as good as we're on."

The War Eagles (22-3) will host Denmark at 7:45 p.m. Thursday in the Region 6-7A championship game. South hasn't lost since a 58-45 defeat by Denmark on Dec. 15.

"It would be awesome because we know a lot of their kids, and obviously half their students came here before they went here, so we know them very well," Kane said. "So, it's kind of like a personal thing, because we know know them and we played with them. Also, I think mostly it's because Denmark is the last team that beat us. They did it on our own floor and they obviously smacked us. It was very embarrassing, but I think that's what spurred the the run that we're on now. I think it's perfect, because that's the team we would want to play."

South reached the region championship last season but fell to Milton, 61-54.

Givens said the team's goal since that game has been to lock up the No. 1 seed with a region title.

"We've earned a right to host a game in the state [tournament], which is really, really important, but that's not our ultimate goal," Givens said. "We came up short in this game last year, and our ultimate goal from last year against Milton is to come back and win us a region championship."

Lambert (12-13) will face Gainesville in the third-place game at 6 p.m. Thursday at South.