In its Region 5-7A tournament win over North Forsyth on Tuesday, the West Forsyth boys basketball team learned that thinking is good – but only to an extent.
The Wolverines trailed the Raiders 28-26 at the end of the first half. Their offense rested mainly on the production of Broc Bidwell, who had 11 of those points, and though West had the ball and time to set a play on the last possession of the half, the Wolverines could only manage a contested fadeaway jumper.
It was a lack of urgency and passion that West head coach Fredrick Hurt noticed from his team, and he figured afterwards that it might have been all in their heads.
“We had some certain things that we wanted to try to do, and I think we were so worried about trying to do those, we didn’t just have life,” Hurt said. “Even our bench didn’t have life. That was the main thing we talked about in the second half, was having some daggone life."
It was North that opened the second half with the bucket, but West’s turnaround began immediately after that. West, which emphasized the full-court press more in the second half, got a steal off an inbounds and fed to Mikhari Sibblis from short, and then Nick Zabetakis scored to make it 30-30, ridding North of its lead for good. After another West steal and feed ahead to Zabetakis, it was 34-30 in favor of the Wolverines.
West’s tough defense and the Raiders’ cooler shooting touch combined for a third quarter that was almost an inverse of the previous two, as the Wolverines wound up outscoring North 19-6 in the interval.
“It was a mindset thing,” Bidwell said. “It wasn’t much of anything strategic – we just had to go out and play hard as a team, and that’s what we ended up doing, and it showed.”
There wasn’t much of a shift in tone in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines again pounced on turnovers to quickly total points. When the final buzzer eventually sounded, West had secured its third straight trip to the Class 7A state playoffs.
This one wasn’t as impressive as last year from a resume standpoint, as last season’s Wolverines were the first team in program history to finish the regular season with a winning record, while this group moved to 12-14 with Tuesday’s win. But West also feels a certain satisfaction with this year’s berth, given the injuries it faced and 0-7 start the Wolverines had to move past.
“I think it’s even more satisfying this year, to not just make it that one year and have it be a fluke,” Bidwell said. “I think it’s nice that as a team, we lose people, but we still come back the next year and get it done.”
West is now set to face No. 2-seeded Lambert in the region semifinals on Wednesday. The Longhorns are a formidable test, with 20-5 overall and 8-2 region records, but the Wolverines gave them one of those two region losses, an 85-81 home win on Jan. 25.
Hurt doesn’t take that result to guarantee success on Wednesday, though.
“We’re going to have to play unbelievably good,” Hurt said. “They’re really good, and we know that.”
North finished the first season of head coach David Sokol’s tenure at 10-16.