Photo: Southside High’s Chris Lengyel (2) attempts a jump shot as Alexandria’s Landan Williams (left) defends during the Panthers’ 52-47 loss in the Class 5A, Area Tournament semifinals last Tuesday (Feb. 5) in Attalla. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Southside High’s potent perimeter game faded down the stretch last Tuesday (Feb. 5) in the Class 5A, Area Tournament semifinals, and it cost the Panthers a second straight subregional playoff berth.
Although Southside knocked down eight three-point baskets in the game, only two came over the final 14 minutes as Alexandria rallied for a 52-47 victory in Attalla. The Panthers’ offensive struggles helped the Valley Cubs erase an 11-point deficit in the second half and earn a berth in the tournament finals against Etowah on Thursday, Feb. 7. The result of that game was too late for this week’s edition.
The Panthers, who led by as many as 10 points in the first half, went ahead 32-22 at 5:48 of the third quarter courtesy of a pair of foul shots from Blake Habyan.
That turned out to be the high water mark for Southside.
Alexandria responded to Habyan’s free throws with a 16-5 run that gave the Valley Cubs their first lead since midway through the first period. Seth Slaton’s buzzer-beating three-pointer provided Alexandria with a 38-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
Another two foul shots from Blake Habyan early in the fourth quarter briefly restored the Panther lead, but Southside managed just two more field the rest of the way. The Panthers’ final lead came with 4:11 remaining on a Blake Habyan trey.
Brock Habyan’s three-pointer tied the game at 47-47 with 2:25 left, but Joe Tucker was fouled on the ensuing Alexandria possession while attempting a three-point basket. The junior forward converted all three free throws for a 50-47 lead with 2:11 on the clock.
Southside soon was forced to foul, but the Valley Cubs went 0-for-3 in three straight one-and-one situations to keep the Panthers within striking distance. Southside missed a three-point attempt with 42 seconds left but soon regained possession on a jump ball. With 16 seconds remaining, the Panthers called a time-out to set up a play. A potential game-tying three-pointer was off the mark, however, and Southside was whistled for a foul in the ensuing scramble for the rebound. Romeo Dye then sank both ends of a one-and-one to put the game out of reach and end the Panthers’ season at 9-18.
Landan Williams was a thorn in the Panthers’ side all night in the paint, as the Valley Cubs’ senior center finished with a game-high 25 points along with six rebounds.
“We tried to make [Williams] play in a crowd as much as possible, and what really got us was that we were helping out [on defense] so much in the post that [Alexandria] made some three-point shots in the third quarter, and that’s how they closed the gap and got it back to a one-possession ball game,” said Southside head coach Chad Holderfield. “But I’m really proud of our kids for not rolling over in that moment. We kept battling right there to the end, and a couple of things just didn’t go our way.”
Brock Habyan finished with 18 points, including five 3-point baskets. Blake Habyan contributed 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Chris Lengyel chipped in eight points and five boards.
Alexandria built an early 7-3 lead before the Panthers began to settle in. Respective three-point baskets by Lengyel and Brock Habyan helped Southside go up 13-7 after eight minutes of action.
Treys from Brock Habyan and Blake Habyan early in the second quarter capped a 16-2 run and made it 19-9 in favor of the Panthers. But Williams began dominating down low and scored every one of the Valley Cubs’ 10 points in the quarter. His basket at the halftime buzzer drew Alexandria within 26-17.
Also for the Valley Cubs, Tucker finished with nine points and five assists, while Dye had seven points and seven rebounds.
Holderfield appreciated the contributions of his senior class of Brock Habyan, Blake Habyan, Brock Lawley, David Bachus and Ravi Patel.
“This group has been through a lot, but they handled the ups and downs and kept fighting and didn’t quit. We really improved a lot over the course of the season, and they were a big reason for that.”