They were the games we talked about for days. Maybe still talk about.
They were the overtime thrillers, inexplicable comebacks or playoff milestones. They were loud, crowded and crazy.
They were the top 10 games with Forsyth County teams from the 2013-14 athletic year — according to me, at least.
For the curious: Yes, there was a system to determine the 10 games that made the cut. I ranked games according to their competitiveness, the quality of play and the significance it had on a team’s season. Extra points for comebacks. Extra points for miraculous plays. Even more points if the game was on a big stage (i.e., state playoffs).
It should be noted as an encouraging commentary on Forsyth County sports that several qualified games were left off. There could only be 10, however, and here are the top 5, the best of the best:
5. McCann lifts Lambert over Johns Creek to stay undefeated
By the time Lambert and Johns Creek first met on April 17, it was clear the Longhorns had a special season in the making. They were 22-0 and two weeks removed from winning the USA Baseball Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. They had ascended to the No. 1 ranking in Georgia and the country, according to USA Today.
But entering the top of the seventh inning at Johns Creek, Lambert faced a 2-1 deficit against Gladiators lefthander and Kentucky signee Gabe Moore. At jeopardy was their undefeated season, but more crucially a chance to get in position to win the Region 6-AAAAAA championship.
Sophomore catcher Kyle McCann changed that. With Tucker Maxwell on second, McCann hit a dramatic go-ahead two-run home run in Lambert’s 3-2 victory.
4. South Forsyth volleyball defeats Harrison to reach Final Four
In many ways, this was the exact scenario the Lady War Eagles wanted: the same team (Harrison) in the same round (Elite 8) when South’s memorable playoff run came to an end last season.
Perhaps it was only fitting, then, that the match went to a deciding fifth set. The Lady War Eagles were dominated 25-10 in the fourth set. Momentum, for whoever believes in such a thing, was with Harrison.
But South rallied, winning 15-9 to be the first Forsyth County volleyball team ever to reach the Final Four.
My favorite part: watching senior Abbey Michelone play the game with her right hand – her hitting hand – taped up due to a wrist injury. She played through it the entire game to help give South a blocking presence at the net that was crucial.
3. North Forsyth girls basketball defeats South for region title
I don’t know where to start with this one. Maybe it’s best to fast forward to 2 minutes left in the game with the score tied 45-45 as North Forsyth junior guard Lochlain Corliss fouls out. What?!
Then fast forward again to 17 seconds left with North leading 48-45 and South Forsyth star guard Sarah Myers looking to make a play. Instead, North’s Sydney Pefanis draws an offensive foul on Myers and the Lady Raiders and their fans storm the court after clinching the Region 6-AAAAAA championship.
Every facet of the game lived up to the hype – the rowdiness of the crowd (stellar), the quality of the play (first rate), the competitiveness (11 lead changes with none bigger than six points).
2. South girls basketball defeats Parkview to reach Final Four
I wavered between the Lady War Eagles’ consecutive upset victories in the Class AAAAAA tournament – the 62-50 overtime win at defending champion Norcross in the second round or the 53-50 win over Parkview at home. Both were remarkable, but I thought in fairness I should only pick one.
So I leaned toward the one with greater historic achievement attached, the one that ended a 44-year drought of Forsyth County girls’ basketball teams reaching the Final Four of the GHSA state tournament, the one that officially announced Forsyth County girls’ basketball’s arrival on the state level.
The game was spectacular, regardless, up and through the pivotal moment when Parkview took a 48-47 lead with 1:30 left. Shelby Threlkeld, KK Storms and Sarah Myers went 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch to set off a raucous on-court celebration.
1. Lambert’s Game 3 win over Milton to clinch state title
I have seen games like this before, close and competitive because two teams of the highest quality have been coached and developed to never beat themselves. But I have never felt an atmosphere like this game.
It was that quintessential deciding game where every catch, pitch and throw was magnified to the nth degree. What if leftfielder Jeremy Johnson doesn’t make a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning with Lambert down 1-0 to save a run? What if Will Dunavant doesn’t connect for a pinch-hit single to tie the game in the fifth? What if Kyle McCann’s bloop single doesn’t carry another foot past the glove of Milton’s third baseman to score the eventual game-winning run?
Those were just three plays in Lambert’s 2-1 win to clinch the Class AAAAAA championship, but there are dozens more to talk about, still, a month later, in the best game of the 2013-14 season.