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Stephens leads ninth-ranked Spartans past North Forsyth
Senior scores 21 of 25 points in second half
West Hall’s Shunquez Stephens grabs a loose ball on a Spartan fast break during their Tuesday evening game with North Forsyth at the West hall gymnasium. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

OAKWOOD — West Hall’s boys basketball team started a little flat against an overmatched North Forsyth team, but with strong guard play from Dre Pou and Jarquise Young, coupled with a second-half eruption from Shunquez Stephens, the ninth-ranked Spartans roared to a 82-64 win over a Class AAAAA team Tuesday night.

Earlier in the girls game, the Lady Spartans won 47-35.

Stephens was one of a handful of Spartans (6-2) that was crippled in the first half by foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first quarter and scoring just four points by halftime. But the West Hall defense played cleaner in the second half and Stephens helped put the game way with 21 second-half points to finish with a game-high 25.

“We had a lot of mental mistakes in the first half,” the 6-5 senior said. “Rebounds and better defense will lead to easier wins and we won’t have to take it down to the wire. I’m not saying that team is bad, but the way we played made them seem so much better than what they were.”

Young scored 21 points and Pou had 20 for West Hall, and were constants for the offense all game.

The Spartans led 12-8 after the first quarter and 33-28 at halftime. Young closed the second quarter by scoring West Hall’s final nine points on three 3-pointers to finish with 14 first-half points.

Tuesday was Young’s first game back after sitting out the previous two with a hip injury.

“Jarquise had a big game, especially in the first half,” Spartans coach Warren Sellers said. “Every time they made a run, he would hit a big 3. He gave us a spark and I don’t know where we would have been without him.”

Toward the end of the third quarter, Stephens began to heat up, scoring eight points in the final four minutes and guiding the Spartans to a 50-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

He opened the fourth by scoring nine of West Hall’s first 11 points, including a 3-pointer that gave the Spartans a 61-51 lead with 3:47 remaining.

With less than three minutes to play, the Raiders (2-6) began fouling, and Pou closed out the game shooting 7-for-8 from the foul line.

“I felt a lot better about the way we finished,” Stephens said. “When we play better teams like North Hall and Gainesville, it’s not going to be this kind of game. It’s going to be down to the wire and come down to who takes care of the ball.”

Raiders coach Bobby Pless credited Stephens’ play as a major factor in the game’s final outcome.

“Stephens was a tough matchup for us,” Pless said. “Whether you tried to go man, or run a zone, because he can step out (and shoot from the outside). We did a god job with him in the first half, but they were patient in finding him in the gaps. To their credit, they waited to find their guy where they needed to get him the ball.”

And while the Spartans were waiting for Stephens to come around, he was confident his teammates would keep the team afloat.

“I let Dre and Jarquise do the scoring,” he said. “If you need me, I’m here, but as long as we’re scoring, I’m good with that.”

Chris Bureau led the Raiders with 17 points and Tyler Keane added 15.

The Lady Raiders (3-5) controlled the game until the fourth quarter, when the Lady Spartans (4-5) went on a 19-4 tear to close out the game.

“That’s when you want to have (the run),” Lady Spartans coach Lynn Jarrett said. “We didn’t do anything different, we just stepped it up and took advantage of their mistakes. And we got into an offensive rhythm, something we haven’t done all year long.”

The Lady Spartans, who were missing starter Tori Alfredsson (flu), were led by Amber Johnson’s 18 points and six rebounds. Brooke Reed had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Maia Booker added a spark off the bench with eight points, four rebounds and three steals.

The Lady Raiders were led by Kim Blake’s 12 points and Amanda Dockstader’s 11 points.

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