GALAX, Va. — Forbush’s girls basketball team got everything it wanted out of the Skyline National Bank Christmas Tournament except for the championship.
The Falcons returned to the annual eight-team holiday tournament hosted by Galax High School after a one-year absence and took on three quality opponents on consecutive nights. Forbush’s road trip culminated in a third-place finish, following a hard-fought 62-50 victory over Alleghany on Friday night.
The Falcons (9-2) opened the tournament with a 73-59 victory over Coeburn (Va.) Eastside on Wednesday night, then had to play defending North Carolina 1A state champ Mount Airy in the semifinals the next night. The Lady Bears used a big run in the third quarter to pull away and eventually down Forbush 56-37. However, the Falcons still ended the tournament on a high note, as sophomore forward Parkley Hennings led the team with 21 points in a win over Alleghany.
“That was a good third-place game. I wish we had been on the other side of the bracket and played Mount Airy tonight, but Alleghany was certainly a worthy opponent,” said Forbush head coach Bradley Shore. “You had two tired teams out there, but they played as hard as they could for it being their third game in three days.”
Indeed, the third-place game was played at an extremely high level on both sides. Alleghany (7-5), which lost by 34 points to Forbush back in November, started out hot from outside. Abigail Keesling, Madison Brown and Cameron Hawkins all had early 3-pointers as the Trojans took a 19-17 lead after one quarter of play.
Forbush struck back in the second. taking the lead at 23-21 on a layup by Miriana Lyon at the 5:35 mark of the second quarter and extending it when Hennings scored on a putback and drew a foul. She made the bonus free thrown to put the Falcons up five, and they carried a 31-25 lead into halftime.
Forbush extended its lead to 10 early in the third quarter, but could never shake the Trojans. Nicole Scott made two free throws at the end of the third quarter to make it 46-38 with eight minutes to play.
The fourth quarter belonged to Hennings. She had just six points in the final period after having seven in the third, but her presence was felt on both ends of the court.
“She had someone her size and her speed on her, but it seemed like she got stronger as the game went along and everyone else got more tired,” said Shore. “She kicked it into an extra gear there, and I’m glad she did. I don’t know how many she had in the second half, but we kept going to her and going to her, and she kept producing.”
Alleghany fronted Hennings for most of the game with six-footer Hawkins, an All-Mountain Valley Conference player in both volleyball and basketball, but she rose to the challenge. With the score at 48-41 with 5:05 to play, Hennings drove to the basket against Hawkins and scored, then got fouled on her next trip down and sank two free throws to extend the Forbush lead to 52-41. Hawkins answered with a baseline jumper plus an and-one free throw for the Trojans, but 24 seconds later, Hennings struck again with a seven-foot hook shot to make it 54-44.
Alleghany made one last run in the final minute, but the Falcons got the ball into the hands of Scott, who made five of six free throws in the final 57 seconds to lock up the win.
Scott was the only other Forbush player in double figures, with 11 points, but the team got balanced scoring, with seven different players in the scorebook. Hope Grimes had nine points and Kara Scott eight. For Alleghany, Keesling had 15, Hawkins 13 and Brown 11.
Forbush will now set its sights on winning a Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title. North Surry has won the title seven years in a row, but looks vulnerable this season.
“We played three good games here, and I saw a lot of good things,” said Shore. “We start conference next week, and I hope this prepared us for conference. We saw three different looks from three different teams, and that’s what you want in a Christmas tournament, to play good teams that make you better for conference.”
The Falcons visited Walkertown on Wednesday night, and host West Stokes on Friday.
Forbush 73, Eastside 59
Hennings and Scott also powered the team to victory in Wednesday’s opener against Eastside. The former led the way with 26 points, while the latter tallied 20.
Both teams scorched the nets in the first half. Eastside led 23-16 at the end of the first quarter, but Hennings and Scott each had 11 in the second quarter, with the latter hitting three 3-pointers, as Forbush surged to a 43-40 halftime lead. The Falcons turned up the defense in the second half, and the Spartans (6-2) scored just 19 points in the second half.
Grimes added 15 points for Forbush, including three 3-pointers. Seven of her points came in the third quarter, where the Falcons outscored Eastside 19-8 and took a 14-point lead.
Mount Airy 56, Forbush 37
The Lady Bears, who ended up winning the tournament, met Forbush in Thursday’s semifinal and came out strong after halftime to pull away from the Falcons.
The game started out with both teams relying on outside shooting to counter tough defense. Brittney Gammons and Lyon both hit threes early on for Forbush, but Mount Airy held an 11-8 lead after one quarter of play. The Lady Bears (7-1), who return all five starters from last year’s state championship team, hung tough in the second quarter but had no answer for senior forward Asherah Smith, who scored her team’s last eight points of the first half for a 23-15 lead at the break. Hennings dominated on the glass, but Forbush wasn’t able to get its shots to fall.
Mount Airy pulled away with a 10-2 run midway through the third quarter and was never challenged after that.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.