South Forsyth's boys basketball team punched its ticket to the state tournament Thursday, upsetting Centennial in the quarterfinals round of the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament, 60-55.
Despite being undersized at every position but center, the quickness of the War Eagles frustrated the Knights throughout the game and paid off in late stretches. For the underdogs, a signature victory was a long time coming for head coach Scott Givens.
“(This win) is very gratifying. It's a big step for our program,” Givens said. “Our kids have worked really hard.”
Givens felt like the snow that pushed back the start date two days was the perfect storm for the 6-seed War Eagles.
“It gave us an extra day of preparation, and then we took the other day off which was good for us as well. It kind of refreshed us a little bit. We're blessed. Our seniors really stepped up, but Sebastian Mallory stepped up as a freshman, made some big freethrows.”
Senior Evan Cole led the way for the War Eagles with 23 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, including clutch layups down the stretch. His bucket, plus a free throw with 1:51 left gave the War Eagles a 54-59 advantage. Fellow senior Joe “Broadway” Brandon made intentional fouling a challenge in itself, draining clock, with his speed, helping South run out the clock.
Brandon finished with 11 points and five steals, while Tyler Elliot scored 8 points (two 3-pointers) and Austin Childress came off the bench to hit three treys of his own.
South went to halftime tied 23-all, having early trouble with the low-post skills of 6-foot-3 Paris Williams. Williams led the Knights with 14 points in the contest.
South trailed in the third, but took a 33-30 lead after a Cole dunk and steal, layup from Brandon. They fell back behind, 44-40 at the end of the third, before Cole took over in the fourth.
Cole struggled early, missing and forcing shots, but put up 12 points and four boards in the final quarter. South will play the winner of tonight's game between No. 7 Chattahoochee and No. 2 Johns Creek.
Alpharetta boys 67, North Forsyth 62
North Forsyth lost a heartbreaker to the other Raiders from Region 6 on Thursday, as seniors Chad Bureau and Nick Cunningham dominated from the field. Bureau scored 23 points, making circus shots down the stretch to cut the deficit to a 53-52 score, while Cunningham often neautralized Alpharetta runs with shots from deep. Cunningham finished with five 3-pointers and 18 total points.
North trailed 20-8 after the first quarter and 40-28 at the half, as Alpharetta got comfortable in its shooting game. Carlos Carrierre led Alpharetta with 20 points and seven rebounds, while David Swillum scored 14 off the bench.
North never led, but looked poised late to complete the comeback before missed freethrows cost them.
“We had guys make plays, make shots, but we just couldn't rebound enough tonight,” North head coach Brian Moon said. “But I'm proud of our players. That was a good team and our kids battled.”
Moon was not surprised his two seniors had dominant performances.
“I expected nothing less from them, to be honest with you. We're going to miss them next year. Chad Bureau is exactly what you want players to play like,” Moon said.