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Eagles' defense paves way to win

SUWANEE - After falling victim to long-range bombing in his team's first meeting with South Forsyth, Collins Hill boys basketball coach Josh Grayson was determined not to let it happen again in Tuesday's rematch.

Sure enough, the Eagles took away the perimeter shooting lanes during a slow-moving first half, and then picked up the offensive pace in the second to run away for a 58-44 victory at home.

It was a far different story from an 80-57 loss to South Forsyth (14-7, 8-5) in Cumming back in December, when the War Eagles sank 15 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

This time, Collins Hill (17-7, 10-4) limited South Forsyth to just five 3-pointers to gain a foothold in the battle with the War Eagles, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge for second place in Region 7-AAAAA.

"Defense was definitely the focal point for us (Tuesday) night," Grayson said. "I'm so proud of our guys. They did a good job."

South Forsyth stayed out on the perimeter much of a slow-moving first half, though it found open shots much more difficult to come by. Meanwhile, Collins Hill gained inspiration from Anthony Whiting and Larry Egolum - each making a rare start on senior night - to jump out to a 10-2 lead after Egolum's 3-pointer with 2:42 left in the quarter.

South Forsyth's main offense came off of rare Eagle turnovers, led by Jimmy Conley, which helped keep the War Eagles close. First, Conley converted a steal into a layup to cap a 7-2 run in the final 3:15 of the first quarter to bring South Forsyth to within 10-7.

Then, Conley converted a transition layup with 54 seconds left in the half before stealing the inbound pass and converting again four seconds later to cap another 7-2 run that pulled the War Eagles to within 20-17 at intermission.

But holding the lead, Collins Hill stepped on the gas in the second half, and it was point guard Andrew Anderson at the wheel.

After Conley gave South Forsyth its only lead of the game at 29-28 on a 3-pointer with 4:01 left in the third quarter, the 6-foot-2 senior quickly answered 32 seconds later by driving the baseline for a layup that pushed Collins Hill back in front 30-29.

Anderson then drove the line before dishing off to Jeremy Olsen for a turnaround jumper and added another baseline drive to key an 11-5 run over the final 3:29 of the quarter to stretch the Eagles' lead to 39-34 heading into the fourth quarter.

"The first half, we just concentrated on defense," said Anderson, who scored a team-high 16 points and added five rebounds. "It was the same thing in the second half, only we ran a little more. We saw they couldn't run with us. In the second half, everyone played good as a team."

Anderson kept the pressure on South Forsyth by opening the fourth quarter with a transition layup, which he turned into a three-point play after getting fouled to extend the lead to 42-34.

Olsen then followed a missed shot by slamming down the rebound on the next trip down, and the lead was double figures and never got any lower than seven the rest of the way.