Lady Panthers cruise to county basketball tournament championship

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Photo: Southside’s Grace Ann Rose (20) grabs a rebound as Sardis’ Sidney Rutledge (1) and Nia Fowler (10) look on during the Lady Panthers’ 42-22 victory on the Etowah County Schools Basketball Tournament girls championship game on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Hokes Bluff. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Southside experienced little difficulty in winning its first Etowah County Schools Basketball Tournament championship in six years.
After posting a 66-14 semifinal victory over Hokes Bluff on Jan. 19, the Class 5A No. 3 Lady Panthers (19-4) dispatched Sardis, 42-22, in the title game on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Hokes Bluff.
Tournament MVP Grace Ann Rose played a key role for Southside. The senior center finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, five forced turnovers and four assists against the Lady Eagles and 10 points and 13 rebounds against the two-time defending champion Lady Lions.
“Grace Ann did very well for us,” said Southside head coach Justin Bowen. “I think tonight was her sixth double-double of the year. She does a really good job of cleaning up under the rim and getting points off of those rebounds.
“(Sophomore center) Hannah Westcott also did a really good job off the bench for us. She came in and immediately scored twice and played amazing defense on the other end. She did a good job in spelling Grace Ann, which is something we’ll need going forward.”
The Lady Panthers led by double digits in the championship after opening the game with a 14-0 run. During the first half, the Southside defense limited Sardis to two field goals, both of them three-point baskets from Jolie Taylor. Meanwhile, Madison Shaw connected three times from beyond the arc to help the Lady Panthers take a 22-10 lead into halftime.
“[Sardis] started off playing a zone [defense] that gave us a little bit of trouble,” said Bowen. “We weren’t shooting very well at the beginning and weren’t on target as we normally are, but I thought we did a good job of manufacturing some points, whether it was in the inside or off rebounding or the fast break.”
Rose took over after intermission, scoring 12 of Southside’s 20 second-half points in the second half. While the Lady Lions had one field goal in the third quarter, Rose netted six points to help push the advantage to 33-13 after 24 minutes. Sardis never got within striking distance during the fourth quarter, and Southside cruised to its first county championship since 2018.
“[Sardis] stayed in zone [defense] a little bit more than I thought they would in the second half, so we tried to hold the ball a little bit more,” said Bowen. “We had a comfortable lead at that point, so I had the girls swing the ball around and told them to take [a shot] only if they had a really good look. It really didn’t matter how much we won by; we just wanted to win.”
Shaw paced the Lady Panthers with 11 points along with five deflections and three forced turnovers. Laylah Davis finished with nine points and six rebounds, Jovi Marble contributed five rebounds and three forced turnovers and Sarakate Yancey added four rebounds and four forced turnovers.
Adrianna Pottier led Sardis with nine points. The Lady Lions reached the finals with a 54-39 win over Glencoe.
Joining Rose on the all-tournament team were Davis, Shaw and Marble from Southside; Pottier, Kaylen Wallace and Mia Fowler from Sardis; Mazely Ball and Addison Simmons from Hokes Bluff; Allie Jo Amos and Autumn Green from Glencoe; Aubrey Haynes from West End; and Avah Home from Gaston.
“This no doubt is a big accomplishment for our girls,” said Bowen. “A really special group like this one doesn’t come around very often, and ultimately we’ve got bigger goals in mind for this year.”
Also for Southside against Hokes Bluff, Davis had 11 points, three rebounds, three deflections and three forced turnovers; Yancey had eight points, four rebounds and three forced turnovers; Mallory Brooks had seven points, five assists and three rebounds; Shaw and Bailey Houston each scored six points; and Marble had four points, six deflections, four assists and four forced turnovers. Ball paced the Lady Eagles with seven points.
In other tournament action, Glencoe defeated West End, 61-25, and Hokes Bluff beat Gaston, 33-19.

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