Photo: Southside High’s Colton Morrison (20) goes in for a layup during the Panthers’ 59-58 victory over Sardis the Etowah County Schools Tournament boys championship game last Friday (Jan. 17) at SHS. (Courtesy of Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Due in large part to a heads-up defensive play by Chris Lengyel, the Southside High boys basketball team hoisted the Etowah County Schools Tournament championship trophy for the first time in three years last Friday (Jan. 17) at SHS.
With 32 seconds remaining in the game and the Panthers trailing Sardis by a point, the junior forward stole a pass under the Sardis basket and converted a layup to give Southside (12-9) its first lead since the 4:05 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Lions (10-10) called a time-out following Lengeyl’s basket to set up a play, but their ensuing three-point attempt hit the rim, and Southside’s Colton Morrison grabbed the rebound. Sardis regained possession with 0.2 on the clock but failed to get off a shot before the final buzzer.
The Lions went ahead 58-54 on Chase Williams’ bucket at 1:20, but Sardis did not score the rest of the game.
With a minute to go, Lengyel knocked down a three-pointer to pull his team within a point, and his steal and subsequent lay-up down the stretch held up as the play of the game.
Lengyel scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter – including the Panthers’ final seven points – on the way to being named Tournament MVP.
“We were just trying to trap and rotate up,” said Southside head coach Chad Holderfield on Lengyel’s steal. “[Sardis] threw it to us, and Chris made the layup. He did a great job tonight of getting into the lane and making shots. It was really impressive to see him get on a roll like that. The guys around him did a great job of defending and getting a few stops to get some extra possessions. We made some critical stops there at the end.”
Colton Morrison added 10 points for Southside, while Tommy Simmons and Michael Rich each scored eight.
“Sardis is a good basketball team, and Coach Owens does a great job,” said Holderfield. “We knew coming in that tonight was going to be a dogfight, and it was. I’m very proud of our guys, [because] there were a lot of stretches where I felt we could have thrown in the towel and rolled over. It wasn’t perfect, but out our guys stayed together and kept fighting through adversity.”
Braxton Brooks paced Sardis with 15 points, followed by Trey Hubbard with 12, Jay Owens with 11 and Jacob Hopper with eight.
“[Lengyel] kept driving and getting those easy shots in the lane, and he made them,” said Sardis head coach Van Owens. “We made some big shots to catch up, but we couldn’t get them to fall when we needed to at the end. All the credit to Coach Holderfield and his staff. [Southside] is always super-disciplined, especially defensively. They’re always tough to score on. But I though our guys did a pretty good job tonight, and I’m super-proud of them. It was just a great back-and-forth game between two great teams. You couldn’t have asked for anything better for a county championship game.”
The Panthers led by 19-15 after eight minutes. The Lions went ahead 23-21 midway through the second quarter, but a pair of three-point baskets by Tommy Simmons helped Southside take a 31-25 advantage into the break.
The hosts stretched their lead to eight points with three and a half minutes left in the third frame before a 9-2 run by Sardis tied the game at 40-40 entering the fourth quarter.
A steal and layup by Jay Owens and a three-pointer from Hopper made it 45-42 in favor of the Lions two minutes into the final frame. Lengyel then scored 10 of Southside’s next 12 points, but five points from Williams and Hopper’s traditional three-point play provided the Lions with a 56-52 lead with 2:05 left.
“It’s always special to win the county tournament, and even more special to win it on your home floor,” said Holderfield. “I’m just glad that our seniors got to enjoy that experience.”
Joining Lengyel on the all-tournament team were Morrison, Simmons and Jordan Grantland from Southside; Williams, Jay Owens and Braxton Brooks from Sardis; Jordan Presley and Ashton Gulledge from Hokes Bluff; Jacob Cosby and Gavin Knue from West End; Will Bagley from Gaston; and Dakota Smith from Glencoe.