Photo: Southside’s Jovi Marble (1) is fouled by Arab’s Sydney Ferguson during the Lady Panthers’ 48-44 loss in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A girls championship game last Wednesday (Feb. 22) at Jacksonville State. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Southside fought Arab tooth and nail throughout the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A girls championship game last Wednesday (Feb. 22), but the Lady Knights ultimately possessed a little more ammunition in their arsenal on the way to a 48-44 victory at Jacksonville State.
Although they trailed the entire game, the Lady Panthers (23-8) twice came back from double-digit deficits to cause Arab some concern.
Down 12 points with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Southside put together a 7-0 run that was capped by a pair of free throws by Sarakate Yancey with a minute to go. The Lady Knights (21-12) misfired on the next possession, but the Lady Panthers could not take advantage. Southside soon was forced to foul in order to regain possession, and with 36 seconds left, Laney Kelly canned two foul shots to make it 48-41.
The Lady Panthers got possession with 14 seconds left, but Laylah Davis’ three-point basket at the buzzer only served as window dressing the final score.
Arab had earlier built a 16-point lead before a 12-1 Southside run that bridged late in the first half to early in the second brought the Lady Panthers within five points.
Southside finished the game with 18 points to the Arab’s 10, but the Lady Knights had a 25 to 17 advantage in points off turnovers.
“We got a spark right before halftime, and I thought we battled hard in the second half,” said Southside head coach Justin Bowen. “But we would do something really good and then not play very good defense when they made a big shot and got us into a bind. [Arab] was able to hit the big shots when they needed to, and we made a lot of mistakes that cost us at times. We ended up losing by four, but it seemed like [the final score] was a lot worse than that.
“But if anybody had to beat us, I’m glad that it was [Arab head coach] Brad Kitchens, because he’s a really good guy. His girls worked hard and made some big shots today.”
Madison Shaw paced Southside with 16 points, followed by Davis with 11 and Yancey with 10. Jovi Marble grabbed six rebounds, while Yancey and Shaw each cleared 10. Graceanne Rose contributed three assists, two blocks and two steals. Shaw and Davis made the all-tournament team.
Tournament MVP Lilly Livingston scored 18 points for Arab, while Maggie Chastain added 10.
The Lady Knights ran out an early 8-3 lead before Southside pulled within 11-6 after one quarter.
Livingston was sharp from the perimeter during the second period, knocking down three 3-pointers while scoring 11 of Arab’s 13 points. Her sharpshooting helped put the Lady Panthers in a 22-8 hole with 2:30 left in the half. But Southside responded with a 7-0 stretch that narrowed the margin to 24-15 at halftime.
The Lady Panthers’ surge continued into the third quarter, with Davis’ jump shot at 2:10 making it 30-27. But a three-pointer from Chastain and a jump shot from Bryleigh Bodine put Arab ahead 35-27 heading into the final eight minutes.
“I’m so proud of the girls for the turnaround they were able to make this year,” said Bowen. “These girls can hold their heads high because of the amount of work they put in over the last eight months. I truly believe that’s what allowed them to get to this point today.”