By Mackenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
Stephon Bland did not play basketball last year. Instead, he wanted to focus on football.
As a senior, he went back to the hardwood, though football is still on his mind. He most recently took a visit to Cornell.
And on Tuesday, it was certainly good for West to have Bland back on the court, as he scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Wolverines earn a 58-57 road victory at North Forsyth on Tuesday.
“Three of our bigs were hurt tonight, so we had to step up in the last eight minutes,” Bland said. “We came out and had that fight, and this was a big win for us.”
Trailing 44-38 with seven minutes left, Bland stepped in front of pass and took it down the court to lay it in. A few plays later, the senior scored another bucket in the paint. The same thing happened on the next offensive possession.
“We came out of halftime (tied at 32) to play like we were down,” Bland said. “Play like we’re losing and we’ll come out and win the game. We fought.”
“He’s trying to play catch up,” Wolverines head coach Frederick Hurt said. “He’s been on some visits, our football team was in the playoffs. He’s had very little practice time.”
“Coming into tonight, he thought he wasn’t even going to play. Boy, I’m sure glad he did.”
After Bland got his team within two, the Wolverines (2-7) went to work. Jack Bock hit a three-pointer, and Peyton Ragsdale gave West the lead midway through the quarter by attacking the rim. A few plays later, the Wolverines took the lead for good on a three by Zack Zabetakis with 1:56 remaining in the game.
“We had some lineups on the court that hadn’t practice together and we couldn’t even call a single play,” Hurt said. “We weathered the storm and got in to the fourth quarter, and Stephon and our guys stepped up big.”
“One thing we stressed was competing and just came up short at the end,” North head coach David Sokol said. “We didn’t really play well off the ball, closing on penetration. (Stephon) got to the rim and so did a few of their other players. We gave up too many offensive rebounds, and that can’t happen.”
The Raiders came out red hot to start the game. Senior Braden Collins connected on his first three three-point attempts. Bennett Helms had a game-high 16 points, with 13 coming in the second quarter, and forward Cory Seitz had the baby skyhook working, scoring 15 points.
Zabetakis finished with 12 points. Broc Bidwell chipped in with nine.
West Forsyth gets back on the court Friday night when they host Forsyth Central.
North hits the road for a contest at South Forsyth.
North girls 46, West Forsyth 30
North Forsyth’s Caroline Martin scored a game-high 15 points and Lilly Bales added 11 as the Raiders defeated West Forsyth 46-30.
The Raiders (6-2) credit the victory thanks to 19 second-chance points that all started with increased effort on the offensive glass.
“We were getting a lot of second-chance opportunities in the second half,” North coach Eric Herrick said. “The first possession of the second half, even though we didn’t make it, we got six shots at it. You can’t fault that effort.”
On the other side, West (5-4) had trouble getting rebounds that could have had opportunities to score on their end of the court.
“Rebounding got us in the second half,” Coach David May said. “We did a good job of that in the first half. We wanted to increase our intensity after halftime because we knew they were going to crash the boards harder. We didn’t do a good job of matching that.”
West’s Calie Thrower had a team-high ten points. Kassidy Kimbro and Maggie Qunicy each had seven points for the Wolverines.