The energy was suddenly rising in South Forsyth’s gym on Tuesday night.
The War Eagles hadn’t played a flawless game by any stretch against West Forsyth, but they’d stayed close enough throughout the second half to make their mistakes seemingly redeemable. With less than a minute remaining, South looked to be on the cusp of a last-second win after Thomas Stocks nailed a three-pointer with 14.8 seconds to get his team to within one.
With the tension and crowd noise increasing, West coach Fredrick Hurt didn’t lose any confidence.
“We knew we had free throw shooters,” he said. “(If) we could get the ball in bounds, we were going to have guys to make free throws.”
Sure enough, that’s what the Wolverines did. After South missed a potential game-winning shot on their next possession, West’s Broc Bidwell and Joseph Staiti nailed four free throws to ice a 58-53 victory.
West moved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in region play, while South dropped to 12-6 and 2-1.
“South is extremely talented and their guards, to me, are tough, tough, tough players,” Hurt said. “They remind me of us a little bit. They've got multiple kids that can shoot the three, they've got multiple kids that can handle the ball and then you throw Devin (McGlockton) in there. He's as good as anybody we'll play.
“We're extremely proud of this win, extremely happy with this win.”
McGlockton certainly was a force for South throughout the game. He led the War Eagles with 22 points, using his size to pull down rebounds and get putback buckets. Completely stopping him wasn’t really an option for the Wolverines, who came in fully aware of that fact.
“You can't shut him down, so you've just got to try to limit his touches and do everything you can to keep him off the glass,” Hurt said. “The thing about it is he's also a good passer -- If you double him in the post too early, he'll find an open three-point shooter. It was a grind-it-out game defensively for us.”
But while McGlockton still got his points, the rest of the War Eagles couldn’t really stay consistent in the second half. Outside of Stocks, South’s primary shooters couldn’t get going late, and that was just the beginning of the problems.
“We made too many mistakes tonight,” South boys coach Scott Givens said. “We turned the ball over way too much. Some of that was good defensive pressure from them. A lot of it was us just being careless with the basketball. You're also not going to win many ball games only getting to the free throw line 10 times.
“We've got guys that didn't even show up in the second half. They just didn't.”
Despite all that, though, South trailed by a manageable 27-22 margin at halftime, but West was able to maintain that slim lead until the very end behind Bidwell and Stati, who scored 16 and 14, respectively. Russell Miller contributed well off the bench for the Wolverines with his defense on McGlockton, along with two three-pointers.
“We tried to make a couple of adjustments at halftime,” Hurt said. “It didn't get us automatic points but it gave us some better possessions offensively in the second half.”