JOHNS CREEK — Mary Henner and Jenna Staiti were unstoppable in the paint.
The senior and freshman duo combined for 44 points and 25 rebounds to help West Forsyth pick up a thrilling 58-55 overtime win over the Gladiators at Johns Creek High School on Tuesday.
"What really got us going is when we were down seven to start the fourth quarter and we realized that if we lost this game we’d match up with Alpharetta [in the region tournament], who beat us by 50 last time," Henner said. "... We felt we had the momentum and had [the game] going into overtime."
Staiti led the Lady Wolverines (8-13, 3-8 Region 6B-AAAAAA) with 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Henner added 19 points and 11 rebounds. Allie Buchalski paced Johns Creek (7-12, 1-9 Region 6A-AAAAAA) with 17 points.
The Lady Wolverines trailed 37-30 to enter to fourth quarter, but tied the game at 39 apiece with 5:12 remaining. Trailing 45-44, West was called for an intentional foul with 35.8 seconds left and sent Johns Creek to the free-throw line. Dani Majkowski made only one of the foul shots to give the Lady Gladiators a two-point lead and possession.
Johns Creek inbounded the ball and immediately tried to score again instead of running out the clock, but the shot was off target and West pulled down the rebound.
The Lady Wolverines moved the ball down court and found an open Hayla Seitz for a close shot near the basket that tied the game at 46 apiece with 14 seconds. Seitz’s shot was only her fourth point in the game.
The Lady Gladiators attempted to break the tie, but couldn’t get off a clean shot and sent the game into overtime.
"Our girls did a tremendous job," West head coach David May said. "I know we give them some matchup problems because we have a couple of post players, but they give us some matchup problems because it’s hard for us to guard them man-to-man.
"In the fourth quarter, our girls really stepped up [in the] full-court man-to-man and did just a great job of applying pressure, playing under control without fouling and really the intensity level just went way up and got us back in the basketball game."
West struck first in the four-minute overtime period with two free throws from Henner, but Johns Creek fired back with a 3-pointer from Megan Froats to take a one-point lead. The Lady Wolverines found Staiti in the post, where she was fouled, and tied the game at 49-49 after connecting on one free throw.
West’s full-court pressure paid off as Johns Creek turned the ball over on two consecutive trips down the floor, resulting in three West points. Staiti then added to the lead with a free throw on West’s next possession to make the score 53-49 with 52.4 seconds remaining.
The Lady Gladiators nailed another 3-pointer to close the gap to within one, but the Lady Wolverines pushed the lead back to three and continued to hold a one possession advantage as they made free throws.
Johns Creek had a good look from 3-point range that would have sent the game into double-overtime, but the shot bounced off the rim to give West the win.
"You have to win games like that, that’s what has to happen," May said. "I’m really proud of our girls in how they stepped up in crunch time. Defensively and offensively we got what we wanted and took care of [the game] at the free-throw line.
"…We hadn’t won two games back-to-back all year and that’s one thing that we talked about. We’d come out and give a good effort, then come out and give a lackluster effort, so to win two in a row… I think we got that monkey off our back and hopefully it’ll build some more confidence for us."
West Forsyth (boys) 55, Johns Creek 50
JOHNS CREEK — West Forsyth head coach Jim Cook exhaled and smiled as the final buzzer sounded.
Zach Evans, Nick Staiti and Jimmy Staiti combined for 43 points as the Wolverines snapped a seven game losing streak and earned their second region win of the season with a 55-50 victory over the Gladiators at Johns Creek High School on Tuesday.
"This means a lot," Cook said. "It means the hard work is starting to pay off and the guys are taking steps forward, which is the most important thing. It means the world to them; they couldn’t be happier ... to finally see some rewards for the hard work that they put in."
Evans led the Wolverines with 18 points, while Nick Staiti (14) and Jimmy Staiti (11) also finished in double figures. Johns Creek’s Ryan Lewis and Noah Perry both had nine points.
Trailing 8-3 with a few seconds left in the first quarter, Nick Staiti forced up a 3-pointer while double-teamed at the buzzer and nailed the shot to close the gap to 8-6 to end the quarter.
The Wolverines (6-16, 2-8 Region 6B-AAAAAA) kept the momentum in the second period and took their first lead of the game with a layup from John Conway to make the score 14-13 with 4:06 left.
They extended the advantage with a 3-pointer from Evans and held a 19-16 lead at halftime.
"It’s huge to get back on track after a losing streak like that," Evans said. "…We’ve got to start the winning streak now going into the [region] tournament.
"We just kept fighting and playing good defense, that’s why it was a low-scoring game, and finally the offense started going and we started knocking down shots."
West went on a 10-3 run in a little over two minutes to start the third quarter and led 33-23 midway through the period, but Johns Creek rallied to cut the score to four and prompted Cook to use a timeout.
The timeout worked as the Wolverines returned to the court composed and ended the quarter ahead 36-29.
"We started making some of the same mistakes again and the guys realized this is how we’re supposed to react and this is what we need to do," Cook said. "[We] went back to the fundamentals and the game plan."
West continued to score and took a 51-42 lead in the final quarter with 2:25 left, but the Gladiators fought back and closed the gap to 53-50 with 31.8 seconds remaining. Johns Creek was forced to foul and didn’t score again to give West the victory.
The Wolverines were lethal from the free-throw line as they knocked down 17-of-20, including 11 in the fourth quarter to finish for 85 percent.