The shots started to fall, post players started getting easy touches in the paint and all the maladies that ailed South Forsyth boys basketball in a troublesome first half seemed to be remedied.
Then, just as quickly, the turnovers returned, the fundamentals broke down and the War Eagles let a close game slip away for a 51-38 loss to Centennial on Tuesday in their Region 6-AAAAAA opener at home.
South remains winless on the season, falling to 0-5 overall and 0-1 in the region.
Forward Logan Cole led the War Eagles with 11 points, while center Greer Landry scored 10 points.
Centennial guard Xavier Jackson led all scorers with 23 points.
“We played our hearts out for about three quarters and then we didn’t do simple things like blocking out at the free line,” South coach Manson Hill said. “That’s pretty inexcusable.”
Indeed, the War Eagles hung with Centennial for the better part of the game. South went up 28-27 on a 3-pointer by Matt McCorkle late in the third quarter for just its second lead of the game, and the play encapsulated everything that was going right for the War Eagles.
Fighting against Centennial’s tough zone defense, Landry caught a pass in the paint and was swarmed by Knights defenders. With Centennial’s defense collapsed around Landry, the senior center immediately passed to McCorkle, who was wide open behind the arc.
That followed 11 straight points by South in the paint. Landry scored six straight for the War Eagles to start the second half, junior forward Thomas McClellan converted a three-point play and Cole hit an easy lay-up.
The trio combined for 14 of South’s 17 points in the third quarter after combining for just four points in the first half.
“That’s something we talk about every game and every practice,” Hill said. “We should go there a lot – a lot more than we did tonight. Our guys finally started listening to what we wanted to do on offense.”
“It was just working hard to get open and finishing at the basket,” Cole said.
But South’s progress unraveled.
Jackson took over for Centennial, scoring five of the Knight’s next seven points to take a 34-31 lead going into the fourth quarter. His penetration helped get South in the double bonus just 29 seconds in to the final quarter. Both Cole and McClellan eventually fouled out.
Centennial made 13 of 21 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the game and keep South in search of its first win this season.
“We’re playing hard at the start of games,” Cole said. “We need to work more together as a team and come together and finish the whole game.”