Photo: Southside High’s Savannah Nunn (2) drives to the basket as Etowah’s Amayah Ash (11) and Abbi Martin (10) defends during the Lady Panthers’ 51-43 win in girls basketball on Jan. 7 at SHS. (Courtesy of Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Just prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, Southside High girls basketball coach Kim Nails spoke of wanting her team to elevate the intensity on defense, particularly late in games.
Judging from last Tuesday’s result, it appears that the Lady Panthers are on their way to accomplishing that goal.
Trailing county neighbor and Class 5A, Area 12 rival Etowah by eight points late in the third quarter, Southside (6-9, 1-1) allowed just five points from the field over the final 9:18 en route to a 51-43 win on Jan. 7 at SHS.
Savannah Nunn played a big part in the victory, as the senior forward and Auburn-Montgomery signee netted a team-high 22 points, including 11 points in the fourth quarter.
“We expected Savannah to do a lot defensively tonight,” said Nails. “We had her roll over to [defend] one of [Etowah’s] strong scorers and then come back and perform on [the offensive] end. Savannah’s worked extremely hard, and because of that, we want to give her a chance to get the ball and help us out.”
The Lady Blue Devils (2-11, 0-2) managed just seven points during the last eight minutes, with two of those points coming at the final buzzer when the outcome was already decided.
Etowah saw its four-point third-quarter advantage quickly erased when Nunn scored every point of a 9-2 run. Amayah Ash’s basket with 3:20 tied the game at 41-41, but that was the last time Etowah scored until the final seconds.
In the meantime, a three-pointer by Lynnsey Hunt and a pair of free throws from Kaylee Brown provided the Lady Panthers with a six-point cushion with 90 seconds left, and a clutch defensive rebound by Nunn with a minute to go forced Etowah to foul. Southside went 4-for-6 at the free throw line over the final 40 seconds to secure the win.
Brown finished with 11 points, including eight over the final 13 minutes.
“I thought we applied a little more pressure defensively in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Nails. “Etowah’s a really strong team, and they have a lot of offensively threats, from rebounding to scoring from the perimeter, so you’ve got to be able to defend that or they’ll create a large lead right off the bat.”
The Lady Panthers also put together a solid performance from the free throw line, shooting 73 percent (19-for-26). Etowah visited the charity stripe only six times, making 6-of-10 attempts.
“If you make free throws and layups, you put yourself in a position to win a lot of games,” said Nails.
The Lady Blue Devils had the upper hand early on, as 11 points from Ash propelled the visitors to a 17-10 lead entering the second quarter.
Respective treys from Jaleigh Devine and Laura Wood made it 23-16 with five minutes left in the first half, but a 9-4 stretch by the Lady Panthers cut their deficit to 27-25 at the half.
Brown two foul shots tied the game at 29 at the 4:56 mark of the third quarter before an 8-0 Etowah run put the Attala squad back on top. Four points from Brown in the final minute of the period drew the Lady Panthers within 37-33.
Ash and Devine both scored 13 points for Etowah.
“I thought we played great tonight,” said Etowah head coach Blake Hudson. “The girls made some big shots when we needed them. A game like this one will help us down the road.”