By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Southside High girls basketball program must wait another year to qualify for its initial appearance at the Northeast Regional Tournament.
The Lady Panthers’ fine season ended on a disappointing note on Monday (Feb. 13) at SHS, as Southside fell to Fort Payne, 56-49, in the Class 6A subregional playoffs.
Poor shooting and foul trouble plagued the Lady Panthers, especially in the second half. Southside (23-4) led 25-24 at halftime but trailed 47-39 at the start of the fourth quarter. Having to sit for the majority of the third quarter with three fouls, senior forward and leading scorer Kelsey Patterson netted the Lady Panthers’ first six points of the final period.
But the Lady Wildcats had an 11-point lead after Nykeia McElrath’s basket at the 5:03 mark.
The Fort Payne offense stalled out over the next several minutes, however, giving Southside an opportunity to make a run. Mallary Smith’s steal and resulting lay-up drew the hosts within 54-47 midway through the quarter and Emilee Coker’s free throw at 2:53 narrowed the gap to six points, but the Lady Panthers failed to convert a pair of Fort Payne turnovers into points during that time.
“It definitely has an effect when your leading scorer has to go to the bench with foul trouble,” said Southside head coach Kin Nails. “But we also couldn’t capitalize on our defensive efforts when [Fort Payne] had trouble scoring.”
Patterson’s foul shot with 47 seconds remaining cut the deficit to 54-49. The Lady Wildcats then missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, but Annie Anderson grabbed the rebound and went down the court to score with 29 seconds on the clock.
That effectively put the game out of reach, and the Lady Panthers did not get off a shot attempt until the closing seconds.
Southside head coach Kin Nails acknowledged that Fort Payne handled the Lady Panthers’ full-court pressure much better than did most of Southside’s opponents this season.
“They didn’t panic and were able to take care of the ball, and at the same time, we didn’t get as many points off turnovers as we normally do. We also missed several high-percentage shots in the lane early on, and had we connected with some of those, that may have changed the tone. But Fort Payne is a great team and coach [Steve] Sparks does a great job.”
Patterson finished with 21 points, followed by Alexis Thompson with 15 and Lauren Hunt with 10.
Anderson paced Fort Payne with 22 points, followed by McElrath with 19.
Patterson scored six of Southside’s 10 first-quarter points, including a buzzer-beating lay-up that drew the Lady Panthers within 15-10.
A 7-2 run by Southside tied the score at 17 midway through the seconds period, and Hunt’s steal and lay-up in the closing seconds of the first half provided the Lady Panthers with a 25-24 lead at intermission.
“I think that experience helps when you’re in this position, and Fort Payne has been here before,” said Nails. “We were a little anxious about the situation, and sometimes it’s hard to know how to handle it. Hopefully the next time we’re in this position, we can use this experience to help us get to the next level. But this team accomplished a lot,” said Nails. “We won 23 games and got to host the area [tournament]. We had a lost of ‘firsts’ this season; we we’re just hoping for a few more.”