South Forsyth girls basketball rushed off the court after their 50-41 comeback victory Friday night at West Forsyth, gave high-fives to a small South student section and headed for the visitor’s locker room.
But first they made a detour.
Ally Welch was the first to reach West’s training room where Lady Wolverines sophomore center Jenna Staiti had retreated to since injuring her ankle in the third quarter. Welch gave Staiti a hug, then Ashley Hannan, then the rest of the Lady War Eagles came in, a swarm of opponents who eight months out of the year are friends or teammates with the 6-foot-5 center.
"I hope Jenna’s back tomorrow," South coach Keith Gravitt said.
"I hope all is well with her and that she’s back soon," South sophomore guard Sarah Myers said.
The game featured two of Region 6-AAAAAA’s top teams and was the first meeting between Myers and Staiti since the talented duo committed to the University of Maryland over the summer. That was a match-up that Staiti and West looked on their way to winning early on.
Staiti took advantage of her size in the paint to score eight points and Abby Quincy penetrated to help get South (8-1, 3-1) into early foul trouble. The Lady War Eagles perhaps showed some after-effects of their 72-35 loss to region leader North Forsyth on Tuesday with seven turnovers. West (8-1, 3-1) led 19-8 at the end of the quarter and took its largest lead at 23-8 early in the second quarter after Connor Parker drove for an easy basket and forced Gravitt to call a timeout.
"We knew we could come back from that type of deficit," Myers said. "We knew that we needed to pick it up on defense and keep cutting the lead."
So Myers sank two free throws with 2:27 left to cut the lead to 25-15. Then Hannan made a baseline jumper and a lay-up to trim West’s lead to 27-21 at halftime.
South had West on its heels down just 37-31with 1:42 left in the third quarter when Staiti fell awkwardly on her ankle after missing a shot under the basket.
The gym went silent and the team’s backed away from Staiti, who eventually was helped off the court and escorted to the trainer’s room.
"It’s scary," Myers said. "I don’t want to go against a team without their best player, especially when she’s going to be my teammate soon. I know it’s hard for her to go down like that too. … We just came together and knew that we had to keep up our intensity. We had momentum before then, and so we knew we had to keep it going and not let that affect our game."
South promptly went on a 19-2 run during which Myers scored nine of her game-high 21 points, Welch scored six of her 10 points and West had six of its 28 turnovers.
Staiti led the Lady Wolverines with 16 points, Quincy added 10 points, but West didn’t make another field goal after its star center left the game – a 9:42 span during which it scored four points, all from the free throw line.
"It is an impact [losing Staiti]", West coach David May said. "I’m not going to say that it’s not. But we’ve said all year that we’re going to have to win games on the defensive end, and if that’s going to be who we are we didn’t do a good job after that."