By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Halftime can make all the difference in the world.
Just ask Etowah High’s boys basketball team.
The Blue Devils (21-3) came back from a 24-14 halftime deficit to take a 58-48 victory over Southside (17-5) in the Class 5A, Area 10 tournament championship game.
“I told the kids (at halftime) that we hadn’t played that bad this season and we were only behind by 10 points,” coach James Graves said. “I knew that if we kept playing our game, that the shots would start to fall.
“We were getting our looks in the first half but they just weren’t falling. When they started falling, we caught up in a hurry.”
Jordan Powell opened the third quarter with two quick baskets, followed by a score from Jay Whiteside. Suddenly, it was a four-point game.
The Blue Devils took their first lead of the second half at the 2:07 mark of the third quarter, when Powell sank a 3 to make it 30-29.
The rest was gravy.
“In the first half, we were playing really good defense and not turning the ball over much,” Southside coach Chad Holderfield said. “We were getting our defensive rebounds and were able to control the pace.
“In the second half, Etowah went on a run and started creating turnovers. They’re a team that fuels off runs and we weren’t able to stop their runs in time.”
Back to the first half. After one quarter, the score was tied at 11-11.
Etowah scored only three points in the second quarter. The Blue Devils connected on only 1-of-7 free throws during the frame. And it would’ve been a one-point quarter had Tevin Petersen not hit a buzzer-beater.
“We knew we were playing terribly and only down by 10 points,” Graves said. “We’re capable of making up 10 points in a hurry, so that’s what we concentrated on.”
Powell led Etowah with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Jay Whiteside added 17 points.
For Southside, Saige Benson scored 21.
Powell and Trey Brown made the all-tournament team with Whiteside, along with Benson and Drew Mullinax from Southside.
Friday night, the Blue Devils host Arab in sub-regional action.
“Our fans are great,” Graves said. “The students were loud and the rest of the fans were, also. There’s truly no place like home. I’m biased, but I think we’ve got the best fans on Earth.”
Meanwhile, Southside will travel to Columbia.
“This is the kind of games we need to play if we want to be a competitor in the playoffs every year,” Holderfield said.