MILTON – As soon as Andrew Stanton was fouled grabbing a rebound with 7 seconds left, he raced to the end other of the court in anticipation. The Wolverines’ junior forward had a chance to secure an improbable victory at the free throw line, extinguishing his own team’s state playoff drought while extending its rival’s.
Stanton rose to the moment, making both free throws to all but put away Forsyth Central with a 56-51 victory Tuesday in the first round of the Region 5-7A Tournament at Milton High School.
The win meant West and its 5-21 record are going to the state playoffs for just the second time in the school’s 10-year history, adding to its appearance in 2011. The Wolverines will face Lambert on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the region semifinals.
Central (12-14) is left out of the state playoffs again since its last appearance in 2001.
“I’m excited for our guys,” West first-year head coach Fredrick Hurt said. “Excited for our guys.”
Central took its largest lead at 33-21 with 4:25 left in the third quarter, prompting Hurt to call a timeout. West responded, going on an 18-6 run to take a 39-37 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But the game was tied 51-51 with 16.1 seconds left when Stanton received the ball in the post, made a move for a layup and was fouled. The layup was good. So was Stanton’s ensuing free throw.
Central standout CJ Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one with 8 seconds left, and Stanton’s final two free throws sealed the game.
Stanton finished with a game-high 16 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, while Michael Zabetakis scored 15 points to go along with five assists and Joseph Staiti added 10 points.
Ethan Hester led Central with 14 points, Hunter McDonald added 10, but West succeeded in stifling Smith, a first-team all-region selection. Smith finished with 13 points, but he accounted for just two free throws in the second half while defended by Zabetakis.
“Michael guarded him the first two games also, and CJ went off,” Hurt said. “…Michael just took it much more serious that all he’s worried about is CJ.”
North Forsyth girls 65, Milton 31
Memories of last season’s fourth-quarter collapse in the Region 6-6A tournament that ended a four-year run of state playoff appearances still haunted the Lady Raiders.
North put those memories to rest early Wednesday.
The Lady Raiders stormed out to a 23-5 lead after one quarter and never looked back, cruising to a win in the first round of the Region 5-7A Tournament to reach the state playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
North will face rival South on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the region semifinals.
“We had a sour taste in our mouth after last year, so we wanted to come out tonight and leave no doubt,” North head coach Eric Herrick said. “Just go out immediately and put this thing away as quickly as possible. We didn’t want to have something happen like last year where you get out-scored 18-0 in the fourth quarter.
“They played a mature basketball game. They went out and took care of business like they were supposed to.”
Caroline Martin led North with 12 points and five steals, while Cassie Markle added 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Vekondja Ogbogu shined off the bench with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
South Forsyth boys 63, North Forsyth 49
Evan Cole had 19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as the War Eagles pulled away in the third quarter to advance in the Region 5-7A Tournament.
The win secures South’s second straight state playoff appearance, the first time the War Eagles will have gone back-to-back since 2007-08.
South faces Milton on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the region semifinals.
Santhosh Saravanan added 17 points, and Daniel Bateman had eight points and 11 rebounds for South (10-16), which built a 34-23 lead at halftime. The War Eagles used a full-court pressure defense to start the third quarter that flummoxed the Raiders and helped grow the lead to 20 by the fourth quarter.
“I just wanted to kind of keep the pedal to the medal. Just stay on them,” South head coach Scott Givens said. “We got some steals. If you play [North] in the half-court, they’re really good at running their stuff. So we had to speed them up, and our defense was really good tonight.”
Conner Stephenson led North with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Preston Wiggins added 10 points.
West Forsyth girls 39, Forsyth Central 23
Little felt familiar for the defending region champion Lady Wolverines on Wednesday as it led just 18-16 at halftime against a one-win Forsyth Central team. West had almost as many turnovers (seven) as points (eight) in the first quarter alone.
Still, the Lady Wolverines (14-11) overcame those early turnovers and shaky offensive execution and pulled away in the second half to advance in the Region 5-7A Tournament and extends the program’s run of state playoff appearances to four consecutive years.
West will face top-seeded Lambert on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the region semifinals.
“That’s an accomplishment that they should be proud of, that our seniors have been there four straight times,” West head coach David May said. “They should feel real good about that.”
Kalie Schlegel led West with 15 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Abby Quincy and Carsen Parker added six points apiece.
Gina Fishler led Central (1-25) with 13 points and six rebounds. The Lady Bulldogs led 11-8 after the first quarter but couldn’t keep up with West.
Quincy knocked down a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to give West its first lead of the game 19-18. Schlegel made two free throws to push the lead to 11 almost two minutes into the fourth quarter.