Class 6A girls playoffs: NoFo rallies past Woodward; next stop Final Four

COAL MOUNTAIN, Ga. — North Forsyth is still on the Road to Macon. 

In the final home game of the season, the Lady Raiders (30-0) rallied to a 61-49 win over Woodward Academy Tuesday night at Raider Arena to punch their ticket to the Class 6A Final Four.

The Lady Raiders will play Region 1-6A No. 2 seed Veterans, who beat Hughes 60-56 in the quarterfinals, on Saturday at the University of West Georgia in the Class 6A semifinals. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

“Man, I’m just so proud of the girls,” NoFo coach Brad Kudlas said. “We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, but we have a quick turnaround. I hate that we’re having to leave Coal Mountain, but we took care of the road to Coal Mountain, and now we gotta finish the Road to Macon.” 

Junior London Weaver was huge again for the Lady Raiders, scoring a season-high 30 points, 18 in the second half. 

“When she drops 30 on one of the hardest teams we’ve played, a team that has been to four of last five Elite Eights and back-to-back state championships a couple of years ago, was impressive,” Kudlas said. 

It was another gritty defensive performance from the Lady Raiders, holding the Lady War Eagles to 49 points, 19 under their average, while also stalemating Region Player of the Year and leading scorer Lauryn Cooper to just five points. 

“They were a physical team,” Kudlas said. “We held their best player to five points. I’m really proud of the way our defense played again tonight.” 

The Lady Raiders battled through a poor shooting performance in the first half, going 4-of-19 inside the paint, 7-of-28 from the field, and falling behind 18-9 in the second quarter, Woodward’s largest lead. 

The offense showed some glimpses of life in the first half, tying the game 22-22 off a Weaver stickleback with 1:01 left, but Woodward punched back, finishing the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 28-22 lead at the break while leaving doubt inside the packed Raider Arena. 

“We were all thinking that we have to claw our way back into this game,” Gabby Gliatta, who finished with 14 points, said. “There’s no way we’re losing this game.” 

And they did just that, fending off run after run by the Lady War Eagles in the second half. 

“We talked about winning the third quarter, and we got the third quarter win,” Kudlas said. “Then they even turned it up one more notch in the fourth quarter.” 

NoFo trailed 39-30 with 3:09 left in the third, then went on a 10-0 run with baskets from Gliatta, Weaver, and Sophia Parks to take their first lead since the first quarter, 40-39. The Lady Raiders also forced five turnovers in the final three minutes of the quarter but still trailed 41-40 after Cooper nailed a bucket at the third quarter horn. 

But it all came to fruition for the Lady Raiders in the fourth quarter.

Weaver started the final quarter with a bang, swishing a 3-pointer to give the Lady Raiders a 43-41 lead. NoFo never relinquished the lead after that basket. 

The NoFo charge continued on the next trip down the court as Emma Rose hit a layup with 7:06 left. However, Woodward answered to close the game to one point, 45-44, with 6:30 remaining.

But Weaver and Addison Peck squashed Woodward’s hope of a rally on the next two possessions. Weaver splashed another 3-pointer from the left wing, and after a Woodward miss, Addison Peck blew the roof off Raider Arena when she hit a 3-pointer for a 51-44 lead. 

“When we hit those 3s, this place was shaking,” Kudlas said. “The crowd and the noise tonight was huge. Coal Mountain came out and represented again tonight.” 

Woodward did pull within two points with a three from Clarke Falconer with 4:30 left, but NoFo answered again. Weaver hit two foul shots, the NoFo defense forced a turnover, Parks swatted a shot, Rose hit a 3-pointer, and Lindsey Pirkle muscled her way up for a layup with 2:19 to go for a 58-49 lead and complete control of the contest. 

“This team plays for each other,” Kudlas said. “They just kept working and grinding through it. Now, they get to reap the benefits of their hard work. It only gets harder from here. Veterans is a legit, really good team.”

GAME NOTES: North Forsyth: Emma Rose 6, Addison Peck 5, Sophia Parks 2, Josie Cheatham 2, Lindsey Pirkle 2, 9 rebounds.; Woodward Academy: Kayla Whitner 12, Kam Herring 9, Delaney Cooper 8, Niah Ross 6, Z Williams 6, Kami Whitner 3. 

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