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Basketball: South upends second-seeded West to reach title game

Ava McGlockton didn't have many open looks Monday night, but one came when it mattered most.

McGlockton fought through double teams for much of the South Forsyth's Region 6-7A semifinal game against West Forsyth, but with her team trailing by one point inside the final minute, the War Eagles' 6-foot-2 post player managed to shake Kalie Thrower, take the inbound pass and give South the lead with 0:32 left in the game.

Maggie Thompson added a pair of late free throws and South topped West 59-57 to reach the region championship game against North Forsyth at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday.

“Our girls just played their hearts out," South head coach Keith Gravitt said. "Every team wants to be better at the end of the season than they were. I feel like we’re still getting better. I don’t think we’ve played our best yet. These girls, they don’t give in.”

Clara Morris led the War Eagles with 18 points and McGlockton was a mismatch all game, carrying 10 points into halftime and finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

“They were doubling her a lot in there and making it hard on us," South head coach Keith Gravitt said. "They did a good job right there, but Ava kept working. That’s something that she wants to do. We’ve been encouraging her to not give in if [she doesn’t] get it the first time. Just keep working.”

At one point, McGlockton got the ball in the high post and started looking to pass the ball, convinced there was a defender on her back. Gravitt and her teammates yelled out to the floor that she was all alone, so McGlockton took a second to set her feet and put the shot up.

It was a rare uncontested shot for McGlockton, who is at least 4 inches taller than West's starting five.

“Well, the two girls were shorter than me," McGlockton said of being double-teamed. "My coaches were just telling me to go up with the ball and keep fighting through it, and that actually really helped me stay in the game the whole time.”

West maintained a slim lead for much of the first three quarters. Calie Thrower buried a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to extend West's lead to 40-35 before a layup and a three-point play from McGlockton helped South pull even. 

South took its first lead since the first quarter when McGlockton blocked a shot, Thompson brought the ball up in transition and found Morris for a quick layup. However, Calie Thrower offered an immediate response when she knocked down her fifth of six 3-pointers to give West a 45-44 lead just before the end of the quarter.

She scored a game-high 28 points, and her final 3-pointer of the game came in the corner in front of West's bench, well beyond the arc.

“Calie, she lit it up," Gravitt said. "Three or four times we were right there on her and she just plumped it in the bottom of the net.”

South responded with a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter, fueled by a couple of gutsy plays by Sharon Tolliver.

Tolliver was on the receiving end of a couple of tough fouls. First, when she fell hard after leaving her feet for a rebound, colliding with a West player and turning horizontal before crashing to the hardwood. Then, Kalie Thrower crashed into Tolliver from behind while she stopped to make a pass, sending Tolliver to the free-throw line. 

Tolliver hit 1 of 2, then stole the ball on West's ensuing possession and traveled nearly the length of the court for an easy transition layup to make it 51-47.

“We know that she’s got tough skin," Gravitt said. "She likes to attack the basket and get that contact. That was a tough one that she took early on that box-out when she hit the floor. She didn’t want to give in to this game. This game meant too much to her. I looked at her and said, ‘You OK?’ and she gave me a thumbs up or a head nod. I’m just proud of her and excited for our team.”

West peeled off a 9-2 run to reclaim a late lead when Molly Quincy stole the ball and dished to Cayla Cowart, who made an athletic move to get around McGlockton and lay the ball in to make it 56-55 with 1:13 remaining.

But seconds later, McGlockton took the inbounds pass and made the layup to give South the final lead of the game.

Kalie Thrower was fouled off a 3-point attempt with 3 seconds remaining, but made one of three free throws.

Monday's game marks South's first victory over West this season. The Wolverines had beaten South 67-63 in December and 63-54 last month.

“I think the paint was the difference on the offensive end and the defensive end," Gravitt said. "Obviously with Ava, we were able to keep them from getting some shots in the paint, especially that they got last time – some easy layups and layins. I think that was a big difference.”

South (21-5) has a chance at another first Wednesday in the championship game. The War Eagles have yet to beat North, and haven't beaten the Raiders since 2017 when McGlockton was in sixth grade.

“I just really want to beat North," McGlockton said. "We haven’t beaten them yet, and every time we’re so excited. Last time we got closer than we ever have, and I really think right now we can push and beat them.”

West (17-7) will face Denmark on Wednesday to determine the region's third seed.