Class 6A: Semifinal coverage from West Georgia

North Forsyth, Marist girls, Alexander, Riverwood boys advance to finals
North Forsyth players celebrate their 43-33 victory over Veterans in the Class 6A girls basketball semifinals at the University of West Georgia Coliseum on March 2, 2024.

Credit: Chip Saye

Credit: Chip Saye

North Forsyth players celebrate their 43-33 victory over Veterans in the Class 6A girls basketball semifinals at the University of West Georgia Coliseum on March 2, 2024.


Marist 72, River Ridge 69 (overtime)

Sophomore Kate Harpring scored six of her 45 points in overtime, including three from the free-throw line in the final minute, to lead third-ranked Marist to a 72-69 victory over defending state champion River Ridge in the Class 6A basketball semifinals Saturday at the University of West Georgia Coliseum in Carrollton.

The War Eagles will seek their second championship in three seasons when they face second-ranked North Forsyth in the state final at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Macon Coliseum. Marist was the Class 4A champion in 2022 before moving up in reclassification.

Marist (29-1) overcame fourth-quarter deficits of 12 points with 6:20 left, eight points with 2:42 remaining and five points with 30 seconds to play. Harpring’s 3-pointer cut River Ridge’s lead to 62-60 with 24 seconds remaining and, after River Ridge missed two free throws, scored in the lane with 11 seconds left to force overtime.

Top-ranked River Ridge (26-5) led 69-67 in overtime after Makayla Roberson hit a short jumper with a little more than a minute left. Hapring was fouled on Marist’s next possession and made the first of two free throws. On the second shot, Harpring got her own rebound, was fouled again and made both free throws for a 70-69 lead. Abby Lindsay’s two free throws with nine seconds left made it 72-69, and River Ridge missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Harpring scored at least seven points in every quarter, not including the four-minute overtime, but was at her best in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her team’s points as the War Eagles worked to pull even. Hannah Faklaris added 11 points for the War Eagles.

The loss was River Ridge’s second of the season against a Georgia opponent and the first against a Class 6A team.

The Knights took a 10-9 lead in the first quarter and then never trailed again until the final minute of overtime.

Kayla Cleaveland led River Ridge with 18 points. Allie Sweet scored 16 points, and Roberson had 12. Sophia Pearl and Finley Parker scored nine each.

North Forsyth 43, Veterans 33

North Forsyth’s Gabbie Gliatta scored five unanswered points after No. 8 Veterans had cut a 15-point third-quarter deficit to four, and the second-ranked Raiders held on for a 10-point victory.

North Forsyth, which lost in its previous two trips to the semifinals in 2018 and 2019, will make its first appearance in a championship game when it takes on Marist. The Raiders improved to 31-0 and will enter the state finals as one of only two undefeated teams in the state, along with the Class 7A No. 1 Grayson girls team.

“It was a super physical game, but we’ve been in several of those this year,” North Forsyth coach Brad Kudlas said. “I was just so proud that the girls kept their composure. … It was just one of those you’ve got to grind out. That was a great team that we played, and I’m just so proud of these girls.”

The Raiders appeared on their way to a comfortable victory when a layup by Sophia Parks gave them a 30-15 lead with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter. However, Veterans warmed up from 3-point range and fought back into the game.

The Warhawks (24-7), who had not made a 3-pointer to that point, got three in the final four minutes of the quarter - two from Nariah Nelson - to cut the lead to 32-25. A layup and a free throw by Gabby Minus and two free throws by Des’Teyn Seaton had Veterans within 34-30 with five minutes remaining.

Gliatta answered with two layups and a free throw to push the lead back to 39-30 with 48 seconds left, essentially putting the game away.

London Weaver, the Region 8 player of the year, got North Forsyth off to a strong start when she converted two three-point plays off strong drives to the basket for an 8-4 lead with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter. Gliatta added six points in the first quarter, which ended with North Forsyth holding a 15-7 lead.

Veterans’ Minus, the Region 1 player of the year, scored inside in the opening minute of the second quarter to cut the lead to 15-9, but the Raiders outscored Veterans 11-4 in the final seven minutes of the half for a 26-13 lead.

Gliatta and Weaver scored 15 points each to lead North Forsyth. Minus had 14 for Veterans.

“They play for each other, and now we get to play for Forsyth County, and it’s just a huge thing,” Kudlas said. “These girls grew up together, and you don’t see that a lot. I’m so happy to see all their hard work paying off.”


Alexander 93, Woodward Academy 64

Woodward Academy matched defending state champion Alexander basket for basket for most of the first quarter, but Alexander created some separation in the second quarter and then blew the game open in the second half.

The top-ranked Cougars (29-2) will play for their second consecutive state title when they meet Riverwood in the final at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Macon Coliseum. Alexander’s only losses this season have come against Class 4A Holy Innocents’ and Class 7A McEachern, both of which made it to the semifinals in their classifications.

Braeden Lue scored 20 points and Gregory Dunson had 19 in leading the Cougars to their 16th consecutive victory. Torian Greene (13) Jermaine Freeman (11) and Christopher Hutchinson (10) also scored in double figures for Alexander, which had 10 players score at least two points.

Lue, the Region 5 player of the year, scored seven points in the first quarter but picked up his second foul a minute into the second and went to the bench for the final seven minutes of the half. He scored 13 more points in the second half with three emphatic dunks, the last of which gave Alexander its first 30-point lead at 83-53 early in the fourth quarter.

Fifth-ranked Woodward Academy (26-6) was still within seven points with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, but a layup by Freeman and two free throws by Dunson pushed the lead to 39-28, and Malyk Mays’ 3-pointer with 10 seconds left made it 44-31 at halftime.

Alexander outscored Woodward Academy 29-19 in the third quarter and took its first 30-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Brandon Peters helped keep Woodward Academy close early with 12 first-quarter points. He finished with a game-high 26, and Miles Harvey added 13.

Riverwood 79, Jonesboro 63

Karris Balil scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the first half as Riverwood seized control on its way to a victory that put the Raiders in the state championship game for the first time in school history.

Riverwood (24-7) will face defending champion and top-ranked Alexander for the title.

This game was a matchup of unranked teams that finished in first place in their regions in the regular season but lost in their region tournament and dropped in the seeding for the state playoffs. Riverwood tied for first place with St. Pius in Region 4 but was upset by Marist and North Atlanta in the region tournament to fall to a No. 4 seed, forcing the Raiders to win three playoff games on the road to reach the semifinals. Jonesboro, which won state championships in 2014 and 2015, was the Region 3 regular-season champ but lost to second-place Woodward Academy in the region-tournament final.

Riverwood led 36-27 at halftime thanks in large part to Bilal, a Vanderbilt signee who is rated the No. 20 player in Georgia by the 247Sports Composite.

Jonesboro (20-11) was back within 41-36 on a layup by Cortez Redding with 4:42 to play in the third quarter, but Riverwood responded with a 13-2 run, sparked by seven points from J.R. Leonard, to increase the lead to 54-38 with 1:03 left in the quarter. Jonesboro got no closer than nine points in the final nine minutes.

Leonard scored 22 points for the Raiders, and Jackson Davis had 12. Jonesboro got 23 points from Cortez Redding, 15 from Chris Jones and 12 from Montez Redding.