With West Forsyth girls’ basketball’s state playoff chances on the line, Jenna Staiti would not let the Lady Wolverines lose.
The star senior center scored 13 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to help West fend off Habersham Central in a 44-36 victory Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Region 6-AAAAAA Tournament at Lambert High School.
In doing so, the Lady Wolverines (19-6) earned their third straight state playoff berth, extending the longest streak in program history. West will face Centennial in the region semifinals Friday at 4 p.m. at Lambert. The winner advances to the region championship Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s very meaningful,” West head coach David May said. “This game is one of the toughest games of the year because it’s that state tournament berth and you’re always anxious and excited. … It’s kind of unfortunate that the whole season comes down to one game, but it means a lot. Our girls are really excited. I don’t think they undervalue how big of an accomplishment it is.”
Nothing came easy for Forsyth County girls’ basketball teams Wednesday in the 6-AAAAAA tournament. A year after sweeping all four playoff spots, only West survived this season. North Forsyth and Lambert lost in the earlier games while No. 5-ranked South fell in the nightcap playing without star guard Sarah Myers.
In between there was West, which managed to move on despite some anxious moments of its own.
The Lady Wolverines led by just 19-16 at halftime. Their largest lead of the game was just eight when Hayla Seitz (six points, nine rebounds, three steals) hit a baseline jumper to put West up 27-19 in the third quarter.
Still, Habersham responded. After Seitz’s jumper, the Lady Raiders scored six straight points to cut West’s lead to 27-25 with 1:58 left in the third quarter and prompt May to call a timeout. When Staiti made a layup to push West’s lead to seven with 3:30 left in the game, Habersham standout Lainey Gosnell (21 points, 15 rebounds) made two straight coast-to-coast layups.
“It’s always like that with [Habersham],” May said.
But, as always, the Lady Wolverines had Staiti. The 6-foot-5 center University of Maryland signee had 11 points by halftime but just two in the third quarter as Habersham packed in its post players to defend her.
As the minutes ticked away, Habersham turned up the pressure of its man-to-man defense, leaving Staiti in one-on-one matchups. Not good.
Jane Ortlip made a backdoor layup to put West up 31-27 with 7:04 left, but Staiti took care of the rest from there, scoring the Lady Wolverines’ final 13 points.
“Once we got to that point,” May said, “the girls did a good job and Jenna did a good job of being active and getting open. It takes some of those other kids to make some of those shots before that can happen, and they did a good job of that.”