North Forsyth was looking to get the ball in Justin Costello’s hands.
Costello had just stolen the ball with 32 seconds left, giving the opportunistic Raiders new life, down 56-54.
But West Forsyth was keyed in on Costello, and the ball went from his hands, to Aidan Kudlas’ hands, off the rim and into the waiting arms of Broc Bidwell, who drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws to give the Wolverines a 58-54 win.
“He was more of a focal point of our gameplan defensively. He’s having to handle the ball for them a lot,” West Forsyth head coach Frederick Hurt said of Costello. “He only had two points, but he still did a lot of good things for them. He’s the one who forced the backcourt call, he’s the one when we go rebound late in the game when we’re transitioning and he gets the steal.”
While West (15-5, 4-2 Region 5-7A) held Costello to just two points, Kudlas erupted for a team-high 22 points, hitting a handful of critical shots down the stretch.
It was Kudlas’ three-point play with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter that gave North (6-15, 1-5 Region 5-7A) its first lead of the game at 50-49.
“I think Aidan’s just more aggressive,” North Forsyth head coach David Sokol said. “I think he was more confident in his play tonight, and it showed. Our leading scorer didn’t score much tonight and Aidan took it over, brought us back, tied it up and even put us ahead. So, that was good to see, especially since he’s a sophomore.”
Kudlas hit a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game, then tied the game 47-47 with a bucket at 4:15.
Kudlas had another 3-pointer minutes later to make it 53-51, but West closed on a 7-1 run, fueled by junior Russell Miller’s layup with 1:46 remaining that made it 55-54.
“I thought North played well. I thought North executed what they were trying to do very well,” Hurt said. “I thought we got off to a good start, and then we weren’t real pleased with how we shared the ball and we weren’t real pleased with our overall defense. We had good defense at times and we had good effort at times, but overall we weren’t as pleased.”
Bidwell led West with 23 points, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the first quarter that allowed the Wolverines to race out to an 8-2 lead.
Miller chipped in nine points and was big on the glass, grabbing six rebounds.
Senior Cory Seitz scored 11 points but was largely held in check during the second half, with just two points after the break.
“Our plan really was to try to pressure them more so they couldn’t get into their offense as much,” Hurt said. “We couldn’t do that like we wanted to. Costello was a big reason for that. Obviously, we got guys in foul trouble because we fouled (Seitz) more, but we just kept trying to put different guys on him. We had four different guys guard him tonight.”
The win allows West to keep pace with the top teams in the region – Lambert and Milton – while the Raiders are still trying to build momentum.
“We talk about improvement all the time, and I think we have improved,” Sokol said. “We’d like to get over the hump. Once you do that, you start to believe a little bit more. Until then, it’s difficult.”
North will travel to South Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, while West played Creekview on Saturday before hosting Forsyth Central at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.