JEFFERSON — In a game that saw 61 fouls committed, it was only fitting that the outcome was decided at the free throw line.
After drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt, North Forsyth’s Jacob Otwell missed the first of three free throw attempts, sealing a 55-53 victory for Johnson High on Monday at the Jackson County Tip-Off Tournament.
"I’m thankful we were able to get a win," said Johnson coach Jeff Steele. "We’re young, and we made a lot of mistakes. But our kids played hard, and we were able to escape with a win."
The Knights (1-0) and Raiders (0-1) battled back and forth all game long, with neither team possessing more than a four-point lead in the contest.
That four-point lead came in the fourth quarter when Johnson’s Devaris Finch (21 points and five rebounds) hit two free throws after being fouled while driving the lane.
After trailing for the majority of the game, it was Finch and senior Brandon Sloan who led the Knights in their comeback. Sloan had six points in the second half and grabbed four defensive rebounds down the stretch that prevented North Forsyth from second chance scoring opportunities.
While Sloan was preventing the Raiders from scoring any second chance points, the Knights as a team were providing the team from North Forsyth with plenty of chances to get back in the game at the foul line. Twice during the final four minutes of the game, the Knights fouled a Raider player while he was attempting a 3-pointer.
Although North’s Michael Grasso hit all three of his attempts, the game was ultimately decided by the misses of Otwell.
"They’re a (Class) AAAAA school, and they play some tough competition," said Steele of North Forsyth. "Obviously for us to beat a team of that caliber is good for us, and we’re happy to be 1-0."
Johnson will now play Dawson County in the second round of the tournament, while North Forsyth will take on Jackson County in the losers’ bracket.
By Jonathon Zopf
Times regional staff
Flowery Branch 72, Pace Academy 69
Junior guard Josh Barrett led Flowery Branch with 12 points in the first round of the Thanksgiving Hoopfest on Monday in Flowery Branch. Sophomore center Ishmael Harris added 11 points for the Falcons (1-0).
"Playing in early season tournaments are always good because you finish the season in a region tournament," Flowery Branch coach Todd Cottrell said. "There were some good things tonight, and obviously some things that we need to work on."
Sophomore Connor Shaw finished with seven points and four assists, and senior point guard Daniel Tosta added five points and five assists.
Pace Academy senior Zuri James led all scorers with 32 points, including 16 in the third quarter.
Flowery Branch will play host to St. Francis at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Dawson County 74, Jackson County 48
Robert Quinn scored all 21 of his points in the first half, leading the Tigers to a 74-48 win against Jackson County on Monday.
Quinn, who was 6-for-12 from 3-point range, powered the offensive attack of the Tigers (1-0) to a 23-point first quarter and a 23-point halftime lead.
While the Tigers were scoring at will, the Panthers (0-1) had trouble finding points, scoring only nine points in the first quarter and went 6:30 without scoring a field goal in the first half. Sophomore Marquise Gillespie scored 15 points and had four rebounds in a losing effort for Jackson County.
North Forsyth 60, Johnson 23
Sophomore Sydney Seitz scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, leading North Forsyth to a 60-23 victory against Johnson on Monday at the Jackson County Tip-Off Tournament.
Senior Jennifer Redding led North Forsyth with 6 assists and Callan Bennett added 18 points, including four 3-pointers in the win for the Lady Raiders (1-0).
Johnson senior guard Shekeria Cooper’s scored nine points and had five steals in the losing effort. As a team, Johnson was outrebounded by North Forsyth 35-16 and committed 15 turnovers.
Johnson will next take on Dawson County in the losers’ bracket of the tournament, while North Forsyth will play Jackson County in round two. Both games will be played today at Jackson County High.
White County 52, Athens Christian 18
The White County girls cruised past Athens Christian 52-18 and advanced to the championship game of the White County Tip-Off Tournament.
The Lady Warriors will play Union County at 7 tonight in the tournament finale. Amanda Watkins led White County with 16 points. Three other players added 7 points each.
Union County 46, Lumpkin County 39
Lumpkin County lost to Union County 46-39 Monday in the White County Tip-Off Tournament. Ashley Brown led the Lady Indians with 10 points. Lacey Willingford added 9 points and Cara Malone scored 8.
Lumpkin County will play Athens Christian at 3:15 today in the tournament’s consolation game.
Jackson County 52, Dawson County 45
Senior Alyssa Esco scored 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead the Lady Panthers to a 52-45 victory over Dawson County on Monday at the Jackson County Tip-Off Tournament.
The Lady Panthers (1-0) started the game on a 6-0 run and built a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Lady Tigers (0-1) stormed back in the fourth quarter, and with 1:33 remaining in the game took a one-point lead.
Trailing by one, the young Lady Panthers, who were playing three freshmen during the final five minutes of the game, regained the lead behind the free throw shooting of Esco, Breanna Drew and Emily Elrod.
The three Lady Panthers went 5 of 6 from the free throw line in the final minute of play to secure the Jackson County victory. Rachel Biddy led the Lady Tigers with nine points and 10 rebounds.
In her first game on varsity, freshman Drew led the Lady Panthers with nine rebounds, while scoring 13 points.
The Lady Panthers will now play North Forsyth for the championship of the Jackson County Tip-Off Tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jackson County.