Southside nips Blue Devils in area action

Southside High’s Darwin Clark (left) looks for an open teammate as Etowah’s Trey brown defends during the Panthers’ 56-53 Class 5A, Area 13 victory on Tuesday (Jan. 7) at SHS. Southside High’s Darwin Clark (left) looks for an open teammate as Etowah’s Trey brown defends during the Panthers’ 56-53 Class 5A, Area 13 victory on Tuesday (Jan. 7) at SHS.

By Chris McCarthy/Editor

It looks like the battle for the Class 5A, Area 13 title will come down to the wire.

Four days after losing to Etowah, Southside rebounded with a 56-53 win in boys basketball on Tuesday (Jan. 7) at SHS.

The victory moved the Panthers (12-2) in to a first place area tie with the Blue Devils (14-2) at 3-1. The loss snapped Etowah’s 14-game winning streak. 

The outcome of Tuesday’s contest wasn’t decided until the final seconds, when Etowah’s 3-point basket attempt fell short at the buzzer.

Neither team led by more than three points during the final quarter, during which the lead changed hands five times.

Courtland Harris’ basket with just under four minutes remaining provided the visitors with a 49-48 advantage.

Both squads managed only one field goal the rest of the way, but the hosts went 5-for-11 at the foul line while the Blue Devils went 2-for-7.

Drew Mullinax’s pair of foul shots at 2:43 gave Southside the lead for good, although Jalen Williams’ free throw with 15.8 on the clock drew Etowah within 54-53.

The Blue Devils had to foul to regain possession, and Mullinax sank two more foul shots to make it a three-point lead with 12 seconds remaining.

“This game was about mental toughness and physical toughness – about being strong with the basketball and not turning it over, about boxing out on every possession, about being strong on defense, about finishing shots,” said Southside head coach Chad Holderfield. “Etowah’s a team that does what they do very well in creating a tempo and how they push the ball on offense. But we try to pride ourselves on being a good defense team, and tonight I felt that when it mattered, we got some stops. We gave up a 20-point second quarter at Etowah last week, so we knew we had to do a better job defensively tonight.

“I also felt that we did an unbelievable job on Trey Brown in holding him to four points. He’s such a good basketball player who does so much for that team.”

Saige Benson led the Panthers with 16 points, including 11 in the second half. 

Mullinax finished with 13 points, while Austin Abernathy and Darwin Clark each added eight points. 

The Panthers led by as many as nine points in the third quarter before Etowah pulled within 44-43 entering the final eight minutes.

“I never really worry too much about getting behind, because my kids always compete,” said Etowah head coach James Graves. “But you can’t miss 16 free throws and expect to win (Etowah shot 45 percent for the game to Southside’s 55 percent). We were up a point {after Williams’ score] but then we missed three straight layups under the basket. If we make those shots, it’s a totally different ballgame. We were right where we needed to be; it just didn’t happen for us tonight.”

After Etowah opened the game with a 9-3 spurt, the Panthers finished out the first quarter with an 11-0 run, capped by Mullinax’s buzzer-beating layup. 

A basket by Mullinax and a 3-pointer from Clark extended Southside’s lead to 19-9 at the six-minute mark of the second period, but the Blue Devils steadily closed the gap, pulling within four points with just under two minutes to go in the half.

Benson’s free throw and Tyler Carr’s bucket in the final minute sent the Panthers into the locker room with a 30-23 advantage.

Mullinax’s 3-pointer at 5:02 of the third made it a 34-23 Southside lead, but the Blue Devils answered with an 11-5 run that tied it at 39-39.

Harris led Etowah with 14 points, followed by Williams with nine.

“Tonight I felt that our kids showed a level of toughness that we need in order to be successful,” said Holderfield. “I think we’ll be a good team if we maintain that level of toughness.”

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