South Forsyth’s girls looked flustered for much of the night, but found a way to win.
The Lady War Eagles trailed by five points with under six minutes remaining, but forced Forsyth Central into nine turnovers in the final period to squeak out a 40-35 win on Monday at the D.B. Carroll Complex.
"We couldn’t get it up-tempo enough and finish some layups we had and they really slowed us down," South head coach Keith Gravitt said. "I’m real proud of the girls playing hard the whole game. The first half, we weren’t pleased and the defensive effort could be better, but anytime you play anybody in our county it’s a tough game."
South’s Rachel Myers was called for a technical with 5:51 left to play with Central ahead 27-24 that sent Emma Kane (team-high 13 points) to the free-throw line. The junior made both shots to extend the lead to five, but it turned into a spark for South.
The Lady War Eagles’ full-court pressure forced five consecutive turnovers to take a 32-29 lead with under four minutes remaining.
"I think [the technical] was the turning point for the girls’ mental approach to the game," Gravitt said. "Not that they’re not being told we want to pick up the pace and get after it and deny, and Sarah Myers says ‘Hey coach, can we make this little adjustment?’ and I’m looking and that’s a good idea. She’s thinking on the court and players can feel sometimes more than we can see."
Kane cut South’s lead to 37-35 with a shot in the lane with 1:01 left on the clock. Following a timeout, South (6-2, 2-1) inbounded the ball and ran the clock down to 17.8 seconds, forcing Central (3-7, 2-3) to foul.
Sarah Myers (game-high 17 points) made her first free throw, but missed the second to keep the game within three points. Central raced down the court and passed to Kayla Bennett, who attempted a shot at the 3-point line with eight seconds left, but was off target. South’s Ally Welch (16 points) was immediately fouled and put the game out of reach by connecting on both free throws.
"Honestly, I wasn’t very nervous," Welch said. "I was pretty secure with our defense even if I did miss it. I was able to rely on my team for the defense. You just got to calm yourself down in those situations."
Despite the loss, Central showed considerable improvement since its meeting with South in the season opener, when the Lady War Eagles won 55-22.
"We’ve come a long way since then ... but still our Achilles heel right now is handling pressure," Central head coach Andy Martin said.
"These girls haven’t been in a lot of pressure situations. Every other aspect of the game, though, I think we’ve made leaps and bounds."
South took an early 8-1 lead to end the first quarter and a 15-12 advantage at the half before Central led 25-22 to start the fourth.
Central will travel to North Forsyth on Thursday, while the Lady War Eagles won’t play again until they face Pisgah in the Holiday on the Hardwoods tournament in North Carolina on Dec. 27.