Forest Hills hadn’t been to a N.C. High School Athletic Association state basketball championship game in 54 years.
The Yellow Jackets made sure their return Saturday was memorable.
Junior guard Jai Rorie made four free throws in the final 14 seconds to lift his team to a 63-59 win over Greene Central in the 2A boys’championship. Forest Hills (30-2) won the first basketball title in school history.
Rorie made four 3-point shots in the third quarter -- when his team sank seven total -- to stake Forest Hills to a 49-39 lead, but the Yellow Jackets seemed to tighten after that. They didn’t score a field goal for nearly five minutes of the eight-minute fourth quarter.
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By then, Greene Central (26-7) had tied the game at 51. Greene Central never could get the lead, but stayed close enough to steal its first state championship in its first state championship appearance.
But with 13.6 seconds left, Greene Central fouled Rorie, the championship MVP. He made two free throws to give his team a 61-57 lead. After Greene Central’s Imajae Dodd scored a put-back layup with 4.8 seconds left, Rorie was fouled again.
He made two more free throws that few people in Marshville will ever forget.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Forest Hills coach Matt Sides said. “I get emotional talking about it. It’s just about these kids. ...Greene Central is an unbelievable tough opponent to prepare for and scout for. ...I felt we had to win that game a couple different times.”
Three who mattered
Rorie, Forest Hills: State finals MVP made 6-of-15 shots, including 6-of-14 3-point shots. But he made 4-of-7 3-point attempts in the second half. Rorie also had two rebounds and two assists.
Trey Belin, Forest Hills: Most outstanding player for Forest Hills had 10 points, five rebounds and made 3-of-5 3-point attempts. He hit some big ones in the second half as Greene Central got close.
Torrence Clark, Greene Central: Named most outstanding player for his team after scoring 12 points and adding 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
▪ Keep an eye on Forest Hills’ 6-7 freshman Jamylan Blakeney. He runs the floor well and held his own guarding Greene Central’s Dodd, a Division I recruit. Blakeney seems to have a good basketball IQ. With his length and years to play, he could be a good one.
▪ Forest Hills and Greene Central brought great crowds to the Smith Center. I’m not sure either side sat much and it certainly was as loud as a concert. It provided a great atmosphere for what was a thrilling game.
▪ Forest Hills didn’t start the game shooting well, but the Yellow Jackets finished making 12-of-27 3-point shots. They made nine 2-point shots for the game. In the first half, the Yellow Jackets were 5-of-15 from 3. But they never got away from what they do best.
They said it
“I can’t say enough about these guys. ...They are really good basketball players, but they are better people because of how they treat each other, how they love each other, how they let the coaches coach them and how they lead their classmates in school. ...I don’t have kids, but if me and my wife have kids I want them to be just like these guys. These guys are role models and they deserve it. I’m so proud of them.” - Forest Hills coach Matt Sides, talking about his state championship team.