By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Glencoe fended off a fourth quarter surge by a streaking Southside squad to win its second consecutive Etowah County basketball championship, 53-48.
The Panthers trailed,40-31, heading into the final quarter, but managed to trim the deficit to 50-47 with 27 seconds remaining.
Forced to foul, Southside sent Glencoe sharpshooter Austin Hancock to the free throw line for two shots. The senior guard nailed the pair, giving the Yellow Jackets 52-47 lead.
Glencoe immediately fouled, but the Panthers made only one shot.
With 6.9 seconds remaining, Southside fouled Christopher Tinker. The senior guard sealed the deal with a free throw, giving the Yellow Jackets the victory.
Chance Cassidy drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to extend Glencoe a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Yellow Jackets swarmed the Panthers in the second quarter. The Glencoe defense pressed Southside, allowing them only nine points. Cassidy’s 3-point shot with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Jackets a 33-20 advantage at intermission.
Hancock led Glencoe with 17 points, connecting for 13 in the first half. Cassidy followed with 14 and Tinker netted eight for the Yellow Jackets.
The Glencoe defense was led by forwards Devonte Toles, Daniel Warren and Scott Bradley. The trio prevented Southside from establishing an effective post-game, which is vital to the Panthers’ success.
Chris Leonhardt led Southside with nine points. Will Arnett and Drew Mullinax each scored eight. Saige Benson and Kyle Mann netted seven and six, respectively.
Cassidy exemplifies Glencoe’s “never say die” attitude. The senior point guard was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“It’s a good feeling to be MVP, I can’t really describe how I feel right now,” Cassidy said. “But when you play on such a good team as this one, anybody can be the MVP. What’s most important is we are county champs.”
Cassidy praised the play of guards Hancock and Tinker.
“I was left open a lot and got good looks at the basket. It’s hard for defenses to leave Austin and Chris to help on me. Those guys can really make things happen offensively.”
Cassidy insists he is not the team leader, despite tallying more minutes on the court than any of the other players.
“We start four seniors and we are all team leaders. I have played under coach [Ryan] Barkley for four years now. I’ve learned a lot from him and we work closely together. We are usually on the same page so he gives me a lot of leeway out there. We like to spread the ball out and find who is hot and get them the ball. The team does a great job making things happen, both outside and on the post.”
Cassidy is proud of his team’s accomplishments thus far and looks forward to a great post-season.
“It was a good week for us, picking up wins over both Southside and Hokes Bluff. It feels pretty good to beat Southside. We didn’t get to play them in football last year or this year so we try to take advantage of our basketball games with them. We are a lot better since the beginning of the year. We are coming together as a team, which is great at the end of the season. I think we should go undefeated in the area and win it like we did last year. With the matchups, I like our chances.”