With just one senior, this year’s West Forsyth girls basketball team is actually younger than last year’s squad, a team that was already desperately young. This season's talented group of youngsters gave the Wolverines potential for production, but also for for inexperience-based mistakes.
Lately, though, it’s been the former. The Wolverines avenged an overtime loss to Forsyth Central with a close victory over the Bulldogs on Tuesday, and on Friday night, West extended its region winning streak to two with a dominating 59-36 win over Lambert.
The Wolverines now carry a 5-3 record in Region 5-7A, entrenched in a close race with Central for the second place spot.
“The one thing we’ve been talking to our kids about is consistency,” West girls coach David May said. “We have not been as good in that area as we’ve wanted to be. We were good in the second half of this week, and it’s just something we have to keep building on.”
The first quarter was a very slow one for both squads. Offensively, each team could only muster a single three for the contest’s first few minutes. Lambert’s Ansley Dean opened scoring with a corner shot, and Calie Thrower tied it with a three of her own with 5:38 left in the frame.
The score remained 3-3 until Kalie Thrower gave the Wolverines their first lead at 6-3 with 1:32 left in the quarter on another deep shot. West entered the second quarter of a then-low scoring game up 9-5.
The Wolverines’ first quarter was just a warmup. Aided by a stalwart defensive performance by freshman Cayla Cowart, West began to take control, going up 22-9 with 4:50 left to the half after shots from Maggie Quincy and Kalie Thrower. Cowart added six points before the half, including a buzzer-beater that put the Wolverines up 34-18 at the break.
“(Cowart) did a good job of pressuring their point guard all night,” May said. “They couldn’t really get into anything offensively, and Cayla really got us going on the defensive end.
“All of our kids kind of feed off of each other so when she’s out there creating some turnovers the way she did. She got a lot of kids easy buckets tonight.”
And they just kept coming once the second half began. West began the first quarter on a 10-0 run, and after a Cowart three with 2:38 left in the frame, the Wolverines were up 48-24. By the middle of the fourth, West held a 30-point lead, more than enough to cruise to the win.
West’s advantage will almost never be its height, but it has enough quickness to make up for that shortcoming on the defensive side. As the season’s gone on, the Wolverines’ four freshman and their juniors have learned their roles, even taking lesser ones as needed. Cowart has taken a bigger role as she’s adjusted to the varsity game.
“At first I kind of got pushed around, (being a) freshman starting,” Cowart said. “I think our team’s grown and everyone’s accepting.”
For the Wolverines, it’s all a learning process, one that they hope to continue as their regular season draws to a close.
“I think going into the region tournament, we need to go into the third quarter strong,” Cowart said. “That’s definitely one of our weaknesses. I think we’ll do well.”
Cowart scored 11 points for the Wolverines. Quincy led west with 17, while Dean led the Longhorns with 11.
West Forsyth boys 85, Lambert 81
Lambert's hopes at a No. 1 seed at the upcoming Region 5-7A tournament took a big hit on Friday night, as the Longhorns fell to the Wolverines in a thrilling finish. It was Lambert's second straight region loss after beginning that slate 6-0.
The Longhorns led for most of the game, but West rebounded well throughout and stayed in contention. At halftime, Lambert's lead was only 45-42. It stayed close into the game's final minutes, when the Wolverines' Payton Aiken made three critical threes and a few necessary free throws to put West up 84-81 with just under a minute left.
Lambert's Thomas Hickey attempted a game-tying three that looked to be on target with under 10 seconds to go, but the ball went in and out of the rim to keep the West lead intact. Jack Bock then made two free throws to put the game out of reach, securing the Wolverines' fifth region victory of the season.
Aiken scored a team-leading 20 points for West, with 13 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Braxton Beaty scored 22 for the Longhorns.