Tuesday April 23rd, 2024 10:35AM

Class 6A girls playoffs: NoFo's defense shines again in Sweet 16 win over Sequoyah

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

COAL MOUNTAIN, Ga. — North Forsyth girls coach Brad Kudlas’s message to his team before a mammoth Sweet 16 battle against Sequoyah: play team basketball. 
 
They listened.

The second-ranked Lady Raiders (29-0 Region 8-6A No. 1 seed) rallied to the lead in the second quarter and never surrendered en route to a 45-28 win over the Lady Chiefs Friday night in front of a packed-out Raider Arena. In total, seven Lady Raiders put points on the board.

“The biggest thing, I told them to play for her,” he said. “Play for the little girl inside of you, for the girl beside you, the other side of you, and across from you, and they all did that.” 

Sequoyah (19-10 Region 6-6A No. 3 seed) has been the proverbial “monkey on the back” for the Lady Raiders. The Lady Chiefs beat NoFo three times last season, including a crushing win in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Kudlas said, with a laugh, about getting the Sequoyah monkey off their backs … “Yes, yes, we did.” 

London Weaver, who was frustrated early on the offensive end, was huge in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her game-high 19 points — 10 in the final 2:45 of the game.

“Early on, my shooting was not very good. I wasn’t very loose, but I started driving,” Weaver said. "So, that helped to see the ball go in. In the end, we just did what it took, being aggressive and working together.” 

But the biggest storyline of the night was the Lady Raiders’ defensive effort. 

NoFo forced 15 turnovers, had eight blocks, held a normally hot-shooting Sequoyah to just three 3-pointers, and the most impressive defensive stat of the night, held the Lady Chiefs to just one field goal over a 16-minute span and just 15 points through the final three quarters.

“We had some jitters in the beginning,” Kudlas said. “Then our defense really got honed in. Hitting those couple of shots really let us get set into our defense. If somebody got beat, they (Sequoyah) thought they had a layup, and we would come over and block it, or somebody would step in front. We played a very physical game, and we just smashed their physicality. Holding that team to 15 points in the last three quarters is pretty dang good.” 

Early on, however, it was a slow start for the Lady Raiders, facing a packed-in zone defense from the Lady Chiefs that also rotated well against the outside shot. Sequoyah forced four NoFo turnovers early on and a shot clock violation to take an 8-2 lead. 

“It was really about getting out of our own heads and knowing that we were our own obstacle," Weaver said about the slow start. "Then being aggressive and taking what they gave us."

The Lady Raiders shook off the jitters and slowly chipped away late in the first quarter, thanks to a 3-pointer from Josie Cheatham and a Sophia Parks basket off that was set up off a Weaver block with 1:49 to go to cut into the lead, 11-9.

Sequoyah answered back, though, firing to a 13-9 advantage off an Ava Gray bucket with 55 seconds left. 

At the end of the opening period, Weaver hit a bucket to slash the lead to 13-11. 

In the second quarter, the Lady Raiders continued to work off a tenacious defensive effort. Gabby Gilatta converted a Lindsey Pirkle block into a layup to tie the game 13-13 with 6:54 to go in the half. 

The two teams traded turnovers over the next minute, and on the Lady Raiders' next trip, Parks swatted the Chiefs' next attempt, and Pirkle, falling out of bounds, heaved the ball to guard Emma Rose to set sail for the lead. 

Addison Peck finished the bounty, sinking a 3-pointer for the lead, 16-13, with 5:24 to go in the half. 

That was the last time NoFo would trail. The Lady Raiders forced five turnovers over the next 5 minutes and two blocks to take a 19-14 lead at the half. 

They continued the dominance in the second half, opening the third on a 9-0 run. Gliatta netted six points from the 3-point line to give the Lady Raiders a 28-14 lead, the largest of the game at the time, with 5:23 to go. Gliatta finished with eight points. 

Sequoyah chopped the lead to nine points, 29-20, with 1:30 to go off a 3-pointer from Carly Bass, but Pirkle nailed a sky hook at the third quarter horn to extend the lead to 31-20. 

After Gray hit two foul shots in the first minute of the final quarter, the Lady Raiders, behind Weaver’s 13 points, held on to a double-digit lead the rest of the way. 

“All the girls stepped up big tonight,” Kudlas said. “Early on, we weren’t hitting; Josie and Addison stepped up and brought us some energy. Then, the five we always put out there played as a unit. I saw a lot of them grow up tonight. I’m just so proud of them.”

The Lady Raiders await the winner of the St. Pius X-Woodward Academy game (Saturday). They’ll host the winner at Raider Arena on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Class 6A quarterfinals. 

“We get to play them here in Coal Mountain in front of our community,” Kudlas said. “Our goal is to represent Coal Mountain, represent Forsyth County, and take care of business.”

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports
  • Associated Tags: High school basketball, north forsyth girls basketball
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