The South Forsyth boys could not close the gap in their second region tournament game against Johns Creek on Friday night at Lambert High School, losing 51-39.
South (13-14) entered the game coming off of its biggest win of the season, a 60-55 upset of third-seeded Centennial on Thursday night. Johns Creek (24-3) entered the game as the second seed and having won both of the regular season matchups by a combined 34 points.
Johns Creek opened up the game using an ineffective press defense, allowing for easy transition buckets for South standout forward Evan Cole. Cole had 12 of his 20 points in the first half. The rest of South struggled to hit open shots. The War Eagles went just 4 of 14 from the floor in the first half.
Johns Creek shot the ball much more efficiently, making 9 of 13 shots in the first half. At the end of the second quarter, the Gladiators abandoned their press defense and went into halftime up 26-22.
In the third quarter, South’s defense finally began to slow down the shooting of Johns Creek, holding them to seven points on nine shots. South trailed just 33-31 going into the fourth quarter.
A couple of Evan Cole baskets gave South the lead early in the fourth quarter. But as the War Eagles got into foul trouble, Johns Creek’s free throw shooting sealed the game. The Gladiators made 10 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter. South shot just two free throws and missed both of them.
For South head coach Scott Givens, playing back-to-back close games contributed to the loss.
“We might have gotten a little fatigued there in the fourth quarter,” said Givens, “Our shot selection wasn’t very good at times. We couldn’t make the three when we needed to. We couldn’t make the little bunnies when we needed to. That may have been fatigue setting in a little bit.”
Johns Creek’s Ian Joseph finished with 14 points thanks to sinking four three point shots. South made only one three point shot in the entire game.
Givens looked ahead to Saturday night when South will battle for the third seed in the region.
“I am really proud of our kids,” said Givens “but we got to bounce back tomorrow despite the short turnaround.”
Cole finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Tyler Elliott added eight points and nine rebounds of his own.