Panthers crash past Jackets in semifinals

 Southside’s Chris Leonhardt (left) drives against Glencoe’s Brock Little during the Panthers’ 53-42 victory on Wednesday (Jan. 16) in the Etowah County Schools boys basketball tournament semifinals at Gadsden State. Southside’s Chris Leonhardt (left) drives against Glencoe’s Brock Little during the Panthers’ 53-42 victory on Wednesday (Jan. 16) in the Etowah County Schools boys basketball tournament semifinals at Gadsden State.

By Matthew Martin/Sports Correspondent

Southside’s young basketball team grew up a little last Wednesday (Jan. 16).

The Panthers crashed the offensive backboard to produce several second-chance baskets en route to a solid 53-42 win over rival Glencoe in the Etowah County Schools Basketball Tournament semifinals at Gadsden State.

With a majority of its squad made up of underclassmen, Southside figured to be a year or two away from potential tournament titles. But thanks to that youth, the Panthers will have a chance to move that timetable up a little.

“There’s a lot of little things we need to get better at, communication, setting screens on offense, doing a better job of executing plays, a lot of basketball IQ stuff,” Southside coach Kevin Troup said. “Our kids kept battling and I’m so proud of where we are right now.”

Right now has the Panthers preparing to square off against Thursday’s (Jan. 17) semifinal winner between West End and Hokes Bluff in the county championship game tonight (Jan. 18).

To get to that point, Southside (12-5) slowly pulled away after a close first half, using offensive rebounds for timely baskets to avenge a loss earlier this season to the Yellow Jackets.

The Panthers opened the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead at 38-30, but scored the first four points of the final quarter with offensive putbacks from Saige Benson.

It was the first double-digit lead for either team and kept Glencoe (14-7) at bay. The Yellow Jackets got within eight points twice, the final time being 46-38, but could never get any closer.

Other than the second-chance points, Southside dictated tempo, controlled the clock and got open looks.

“Everything they shot went in,” Glencoe coach Tommy Stanley said. “For us, it was just a lack of shooting the ball and getting it to go in. Give Southside credit, they played good defense. We let them shoot and they shot.”

Sophomore center Tyler Carr was one of the main reasons for those second-chance baskets, pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with his 10 points.

Southside used patience on offense, which in turn limited Glencoe’s offensive possessions. When the Panthers started making shots, it put pressure on the Yellow Jackets and made their possessions crucial.

When Southside started grabbing offensive rebounds, it played right into Troup’s hands.

“We wanted to be patient on offense,” Troup said. “We didn’t want to come down and take quick shots. Our shot selection was better. We had more high-percentage shots and those give you more opportunities to get the rebound on the backside. When we attacked the rim, they had to play help defense, and that opened up the back side on some rebounds.”

That patience and strong shot selection will be huge for Southside moving forward, especially if the Panthers face Class 4A, No. 6 Hokes Bluff and its 7’2 center, Isaac Haas.

Even if the opponent is West End, Troup stressed this growth and maturity will be huge if Southside wants to make some noise in the postseason.

In addition to Carr’s production for the Panthers, Drew Mullinax scored 14 points, while Leonhardt scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. Mann set up the scorers with six assists and two steals.

For Glencoe, Austin Hancock led the way with 12 points. Micah McHenry added seven points.


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