South Forsyth girls’ basketball has created a new state tournament tradition. After a win, they walk up the bleachers, stand behind a handmade poster with the next milestone written on it taped to the upper-level railing and pose while the cameras and smartphones click away.
On Wednesday, the poster was dark blue with two words in black and white letters.
As South stood for pictures, holding four fingers up, the scoreboard behind them bore proof of a feat not accomplished for the past 44 years. In a 53-50 victory over Parkview in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals Wednesday at the Eagles Nest, the Lady War Eagles advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
When South (26-5) takes on McEachern, an 81-52 winner over Douglas County, on Saturday at Georgia Tech at 6:30 p.m., it will be the first county team since Forsyth County High School in 1970 to play in the semifinals of the Georgia High School Association girls’ basketball tournament, according to the Georgia High School Basketball Project.
“These girls don’t give up,” South coach Keith Gravitt said. “They wanted it. I’m not going to say they surprise. By no stretch of the imagination. They set goals and work toward those, and we don’t try to limit ourselves in what we think we can do.”
South was pushed to the limits for the second straight round. It never led by more than seven points but never trailed by more than four, and in a wild final 4:30 of the game the lead changed six times.
The Lady War Eagles managed to navigate it all with timely shots, rebounds and free throws, but South players said more significant was the resolve it developed after Monday’s 62-50 overtime win at defending champion Norcross in the second round. South trailed Norcross for three quarters before forcing overtime.
“Norcross was a huge win obviously,” South senior Ashley Hannan said. “We used that energy and fed ourselves off of it.”
“That helped prepare us for a game like this,” sophomore Sarah Myers said. “That helped us believe that no matter what the score is that we can always persevere and pull out the win.”
When Parkview senior Genesis Perrymond hit a baseline jumper, South’s six-point lead had evaporated and the Lady Panthers led 42-41 with 4:30 left. Raven Johnson (14 points) gave Parkview its last lead of the game 48-47 with under 1:30 left in the game and here were the Lady War Eagles again with their season hanging in the balance.
“We knew from what we had done previously that we could score,” Myers said. “We just didn’t want to get rattled at that tough time. We knew we had to dig down deep and pull out the win.”
So Shelby Threlkeld (11 points, five steals) was fouled driving to the basket and sank both free throws to give South the lead again. And KK Storms sank two free throws with Parkview in the double bonus to put South up 51-48 with 33.9 seconds left.
Then when Parkview center Victoria Harris (12 points, 10 rebounds, five steals) drove to the basket for a lay-up, Hannan blocked the shot. Harris grabbed the loose rebound and attempted to shoot again, but Storms ripped the ball out of Harris’ hands as she went up and passed to Myers who was fouled with 5.1 seconds left.
Myers made both free throws.
Players and students stormed the court soon after.
“So proud of my team,” Hannan said. “We fought the whole time, came in confident. The name of Parkview meant nothing to us.
“We’re going to Georgia Tech! Final Four!”