The South Forsyth War Eagles traveled across town to play the West Forsyth Wolverines where they completed a momentous 15-point comeback in the closing minutes Friday to win 58-53.
The Wolverines started the game out hot, shooting 4-for-6 from deep and going up early. South Forsyth (7-13, 2-3 Region 6-7A) came back and tied up the first quarter with two 3s off the bench from Brett Brown and freshman phenom Payne Smith.
West Forsyth (7-12, 1-4) entered the second quarter shooting unconscious from deep with Braden Halloran sinking three out of the Wolverines' five made 3s. Only five points the whole half for West Forsyth came from inside the arc, as they went up 34-26 at the half.
The War Eagles came out sloppy to start the second half — turning the ball over possession after possession, which led to the Wolverines jumping out to a 15-point lead halfway through the third quarter. South Forsyth head coach Scott Givens called a timeout and came out in a diamond press, which worked to perfection as South came clawing back.
“We started to waver there in the second half, but this team fought hard and together," Givens said. "Started showing them different looks and different pressures, especially the diamond press and the 1-2-2, which threw them off completely.”
It wasn’t just the defense that began to turn up.
Point guard Caleb Underwood, who had a silent nine points in the first half, started taking over the game, getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. All 13 points scored by the War Eagles in the third quarter would come from inside, with help big man Gabe Mullis and stretch wing Brandon Mankin.
The Wolverines' lead was cut to just four points to start the fourth, with the hosts only up 43-39.
In the fourth quarter, both teams come out slow until Brock Ferrell received the ball at the top of the key with time ticking down on the shot clock and with no hesitation, put up a 3 and drained it to bring the War Eagles within one. West would then re-up their lead by getting two free throws from Sam Maynard. Then after getting a stop, West Forsyth lengthy guard Gray Smith drained a triple.
It was all War Eagle basketball from there.
A huge momentum swing happened after Mankin drained a pair of free throws. The War Eagles got a huge steal on the other end and threw a long outlet to Jackson Spitzer — who broke one defender's ankles, went right by another and finished at the rim.
West Forsyth went cold as Underwood began to take over again, getting to the rim and finishing two straight times to take the lead late in the fourth. Then a major highlight play occurred with 1:42 left in the game, when Underwood drove left, absorbed the contact and miraculously finished with his left hand to draw an and-1 to extend the War Eagles lead.
“Caleb played outstanding tonight, really showed and played like an all-region player out there," Givens said. "He’s just someone you’re always able to count on to leave it all out on the court.”
Freshman center Charlie Gersmehl iced the game for the War Eagles by hitting four consecutive free throws, as they closed out the win over the Wolverines to avenge an overtime loss in the teams' first meeting.
Givens was more than pleased with the big comeback win.
“Definitely needed this one today after losing in overtime earlier in the year at home to them which definitely stung," he said. "Nothing better than being able to come back after being down and able to get a huge win here.”
Underwood was the leading scorer for the War Eagles with 22 points and had help from Smith with 8. West’s Halloran had 12 points — all off 3s and all of them in the first half. Maynard and Chase Damerell both produced all-around good games with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
South Forsyth will look to start a winning streak in the region Jan. 24, when it hosts Forsyth Central. West Forsyth will look to bounce back against Lambert Jan. 24 at home.
Girls: South Forsyth 49, West Forsyth 35
South Forsyth pushed its winning run to nine games with a two-touchdown victory, 49-35, Friday at West Forsyth.
The War Eagles entered averaging more than 60 points a game, but the visitors showed an ability to win a defensive battle in the Region 6-7A matchup.
Sharon Tolliver posted 13 points for South Forsyth (17-3, 5-0), while Maggie Thompson contributed a dozen points and five assists against West Forsyth (11-9, 3-2).