By MacKenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
West Forsyth boys basketball coach Fredrick Hurt said that with his team down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines had nothing to lose.
And while he doesn’t believe in moral victories in a 70-67 loss to Johns Creek on the road, he was proud of his squad for not packing it in.
“That’s not who our guys are,” Hurt said. “We came in here expecting it would be a tough game …It turned in to a helter-skelter type of a game. Johns Creek was in between, ‘Do we attack? Do we run the clock?’ That played to our advantage because we were in attack mode the whole time.”
The Wolverines fell behind 66-46 on Javani Brown three-point basket with less than six minutes left in the game. After making some defensive adjustments, mainly turning to their full-court pressure, West (4-8) forced eight turnovers in the final stanza, converting basket after basket to the tune of a 19-2 run to cut the lead to 68-67 with 33 seconds remaining.
Broc Bidwell’s 3-point play started the run. Mikhari Sibblis helped play a big role in the comeback, with seven of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter. A few plays later, Nick Zabetakis scored on a high-percentage shot.
West’s defensive pressure kept forcing John’s Creek turnovers that led to more points. Baskets by Zabetakis and free throws by Bidwell brought the Wolverines within four points at 68-64 with 50.4 seconds left. Bidwell’s basket and free throw cut the lead to one possession.
“We felt like most of the game we faded away from their tall players instead of trying to go in to their tall players,” Hurt said. “We shot two free throws the whole first half and it wasn’t because we should’ve been shooting more.”
“We just played more aggressive. Heck of a comeback. Just a tough loss.”
After two Chase McKey free throws from Johns Creek, West Forsyth had the chance to tie the ball game. After the play broke down, Bidwell found Zabetakis in the corner for the game-tying shot that fell just short of forcing overtime.
Johns Creek head coach Keenan Temple said the Gladiator’s lack of varsity experience, and West’s tenacious effort on defense got his team out of sorts.
“West did a great job of trapping us and we kind of threw it around,” Temple said. “But that’s why we play games like this against a team like that because it helps us get ready for the tournament.”
Micah Chadwick led Johns Creek (4-8) with 17 points. Neil Ilenrey, the school’s all-time leading scorer chipped in with 16 points.
“Sometimes you get a little complacent when you’re up 20,” Temple said. “Our guys didn’t stop playing hard, we just got a little loose.”
West Forsyth 27-for-75 (36 percent) from the field, but the fourth quarter saw the Wolverines go 11-of-21 or 52 percent to help get back in the game. The Wolverine defense forced 19 turnovers, including eight in the last frame.
“We didn’t foul in the trap, which we’ve worked hard on lately,” Hurt said. “We jumped their inbounder because we felt like they were trying to get to him every time. Our (rotating defender). Once our trap worked, the player realized he didn’t have options, and that’s where we made our move.”
The Wolverines have a few days off for the Christmas Break. They head to Orlando, FL for a post-Christmas tournament starting on Dec. 27.
Johns Creek 49, West Forsyth girls 33
West Forsyth’s Maggie Quincy scored nine points, Calie Thrower and Cayla Cowart each had eight points in a 49-33 loss to Johns Creek Thursday night.
The Wolverines (6-6) were down 20-17 at the start of the third quarter, but the Gladiators' length and defensive pressure forced turnover to allow high percentage baskets during the final 16 minutes.
“We just weren’t ready to play,” West head coach David May said. “We talk about how we’re not doing a good job of taking care of the little things, and they become big things when we keep doing them over and over.”
“Even though the game was close at halftime, we were never there mentally or physically.”
Johns Creek head coach Kirk Call was proud of his team’s defensive effort that forced 18 turnovers.
“It was really important for us to control their dribble,” Call said. “They’re very good at dribbling the basketball and getting in to the paint. If you let them get in there, the passes to the shooters come from the inside out.”
“When we made them kind of move the ball around the perimeter, they weren’t as set and ready to shoot.”
The Wolverines have the winter break off before returning home to face South Forsyth on Jan. 8.