South Forsyth's boys basketball team started strong against Alpharetta in the first round of the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament, trailing by just one point at the half. The War Eagles were hitting their shots, playing responsibly and matched the Raiders' intensity. An upset felt possible.
Then, with the start of the second half, the wheels fell off.
Alpharetta charged out to a massive lead in the first few minutes of the third quarter, one it would not relinquish en route to a 71-56 victory.
Junior Devontae Cacok, who tallied just four points in the first half, took matters into his own hands in the third quarter by scoring 18 points for the Raiders in a six minute span. South had no answer for him.
While Alpharetta would score just 17 points in the remaining 10 minutes of regulation, South was unable to recover from Cacok’s offensive explosion. In what felt like a blink of an eye, a close contest became a blowout.
Cacok, who scored all of his baskets in the paint or on the free throw line, finished the night with 28 points and seven rebounds—both team-highs.
“Those guys are a real athletic team,” South head coach Manson Hill said of Alpharetta. “They’re real tough to defend and do a lot of good things.”
In addition to Cacok, junior Afam Maduka played well for the Raiders, scoring 11 and corralling five rebounds. Point guard Mark Eze potted 11, as well.
While Alpharetta boasted a wealth of athleticism, South was able to win a lot of battles down low thanks to senior Greer Landry and junior Thomas McLellan, who stand at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, respectively. The two gave the War Eagles a strong physical presence near the hoop, combining for 22 rebounds. The rest of their team had just five.
“They allowed us to stay in this one,” Hill said. “Their defense, especially early on, allowed us to compete.”
Turnovers have been South’s Achilles heel all year long, and Saturday was no different. Alpharetta came out of the half with a lot of energy and was able to force the War Eagles into making a lot of mistakes—most of which they paid for dearly.
“We don’t have enough advantages to turn the ball over the way we did,” Hill said. “That’s been a problem for a long time. When we don’t turn it over we play our opponents tight, but when we do it’s tough.”
This loss ends the 2013-14 season for South, and for its seniors, ends their high school careers.
Landry went out with a strong individual performance, earning a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow fourth-year Kevin Sullivan went out with nine points, all scored beyond the arc.
“Greer was his usual self inside,” Hill said. “And Sullivan, he may not be a natural point guard, but he made some sacrifices for this team and did really well.
“They gave us great leadership and have been great players. We’ll miss them next season.”