Robert Louis Stevenson would’ve been proud of the West Forsyth boys on Saturday evening.
For Jim Cook’s team, though, it was too much Edward Hyde, not enough Dr. Henry Jekyll. South Forsyth held the Wolverines to 13 points in the first half and led by 12 at the break (Hyde, as Cook said), but West stormed back in the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead with 47 seconds left.
Out came Mr. Hyde again for West in the dying seconds, as Matt McCorkle’s steal and three the old-fashioned way with 23.6 seconds to play would be the final margin in the War Eagles’ 44-43 win.
“It’s like we forgot how to play basketball in the first half and all of a sudden remembered how to play,” Cook said. “The light switch came on too late, so to speak ... If I had one of those magic eight-balls, maybe I’d be able to figure it out.”
McCorkle led South (3-9 overall, 2-4 Region 6-AAAAAA) with 19, including three first-half 3-pointers and the biggest shot of all. The senior guard intercepted a West (5-8, 2-6) pass near the sideline at half-court, raced 45 feet to drop in a right-handed layup while being fouled (barely), bellowed in celebration and calmly knocked down the ensuing free throw.
McCorkle again stepped to the free-throw line with 2.8 seconds left but missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Derek Morris grabbed the rebound for West and Cook called timeout with 1.8 ticks remaining. Cam Macer caught the inbounds pass cleanly, but his running 30-footer found backboard and rim before dropping harmlessly away as time expired.
“When West made their run, there was a lot more positive talk in the huddle — guys like Matt McCorkle saying, ‘hey guys, this isn’t over’ — which was nice to see,” South coach Manson Hill said.
Jimmy Staiti (game-high 20 points) and John Peterson (10 points) jump-started West’s second-half surge with their work on the offensive glass. Staiti had 14 and 8 rebounds in the final two quarters and Peterson scored all 10 of his points in the second half.
“Jimmy’s effort is always going to be there,” Cook said. “He, John and Derek started to attack the glass. I told them in the middle of that run, ‘you’re making this run because you’re getting these rebounds.’ Unfortunately we couldn’t knock enough shots down.”
Peterson’s leaner with 2:32 left gave West its first lead since the Wolverines were up 1-0 in the opening minute. After Zach Sewing, who had made 14 of his previous 15 free throws, was fouled and missed both attempts for South, Peterson extended West’s lead to 43-40 with another layup.
Evan Cole then made one of two from the line for the War Eagles, but West cleared the rebound and were poised to salt away a two-point lead. McCorkle had other ideas.
“We’ve lost plenty of games that had stretches like that,” Hill said. “To win a game like this helps our guys have the confidence level where it’s not that little voice in their heads of, ‘here we go again,’ that sinking feeling of having played well for three quarters but all of a sudden the lead is gone.”
South gets another tough test at home on Tuesday with a visit from North Forsyth, one of a number of teams with whom the War Eagles will be fighting with for seeding come Region 6-AAAAAA tournament time. West hosts Chattahoochee Tuesday.
South Forsyth boys 44, West Forsyth 43
South Forsyth 9 16 10 9_44
West Forsyth 5 8 14 16_43
South Forsyth: McCorkle 19, Cole 10, McClellan 8, Strall 5, Sewing 2.
West Forsyth: Staiti 20, Peterson 10, Macer 5, Morris 5, Pruitt 3.
2-pt FG: South 10-21, West 17-40.
3-pt FG: South 6-11, West 1-11.
Free Throws: South 6-14, West 6-15.
Rebounds: South 23, West 27.
Turnovers: South 16, West 12.