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Freshman Goforth makes Fayetteville go

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Photographs by Andy Shupe

Fayetteville guard Sasha Goforth (2) drives to the basket as she is fouled by Rogers forward Madison Sandor (25) Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, during the first half of play in Bulldog Arena.

HOT SPRINGS -- When Fayetteville guard Sasha Goforth received the Class 7A girls state tournament MVP award Saturday, her teammates had a message for everyone at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.

"She's a freshman!" Fayetteville players yelled at midcourt after Goforth scored 19 points in Fayetteville's 59-49 victory over North Little Rock in the girls state championship game.

Goforth isn't the typical freshman player for a Class 7A state championship team, though.

This season, the 6-foot Goforth averaged more than 12 points per game as Fayetteville's leading scorer. She averaged 16.3 points in the Lady Bulldogs' final three games, including 7A semifinal victories over Conway and Little Rock Central and Saturday's game against North Little Rock.

"Sasha is a very gifted kid. A very humble kid," Fayetteville Coach Vic Rimmer said. "She's very skilled with the ball in her hands. She's skilled to catch and shoot. Defensively, she was fantastic."

Goforth's performance Saturday caught the eye of two of the top NCAA women's basketball programs.

After the game, Goforth, who also had 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 5 steals, received Division I scholarship offers from Mississippi State -- coached by former Arkansas assistant Vic Schaefer -- and Texas -- led by Bryant native Karen Aston.

"She is a phenomenal player," North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said. "I didn't think the moment got big for her, which is uncommon for a freshman.

"We knew going in that she was their best player, by far. Their other ones are good, too. But she's got a chance to be a really special player."

Fayetteville (30-2), which went 14-0 in the 7A-West Conference this season, jumped out to a 20-3 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter. Goforth's layup gave the Lady Bulldogs a 5-0 lead early in the quarter.

Goforth scored 11 of her 19 points in the second half Saturday. Her three-pointer with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter pushed Fayetteville's lead to 19 points, 42-23. In the fourth quarter, Goforth had seven points, including a three-pointer at the 5:39 mark that increased the Lady Bulldogs' advantage to 45-35.

North Little Rock (28-3) cut the Fayetteville lead to 51-46 with 2:11 left to play, but Goforth answered with a layup with 1:04 remaining for a 53-46 lead.

Fayetteville has 11 seniors on its roster, but the adjustment for Goforth as a freshman went as smooth as possible.

"It's been amazing having all the seniors to look up to for mentors," Goforth said. "They've been great teammates to me and they've been getting the ball to me in situations."

Rimmer admitted there could have been chemistry issues for Fayetteville. However, that wasn't the case this season.

"These seniors wanted to win so bad where it doesn't matter what grade anybody is in," Rimmer said. "Sasha has been our leading scorer and everyone's been OK with that.

"Sasha's ceiling is unlimited. She's going to be a tremendous player for us, thank God, for three more years."

Sports on 03/12/2017

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