Photo: Southside High’s Alexis Thompson (right) attempts a jump shot as Springville’s Abbie Talton defends during Lady Panthers’ 50-34 victory in the Class 5A subregional playoffs in girls basketball last Monday (Feb. 11) at SHS. (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Southside High girls basketball program officially entered uncharted territory on Monday, Feb. 11.
Sparked by a stingy defensive effort, the Lady Panthers qualified for the Northeast Regional Tournament for the first time in school history with a 50-34 victory over Springville in the Class 5A subregional playoffs at SHS.
Southside (19-5) will face Scottsboro in the regional semifinals on Monday, Feb. 18, at Jacksonville State.
The Lady Panthers set the tone defensively from the opening tip, limiting the Lady Tigers to seven points and four field goals in the first half. Over a 13-minute span, the visitors went scoreless from the field. Through the first three quarters alone, Springville committed 15 turnovers.
“You can’t always control your shots, but you can always control you’re playing defense,” said Southside head coach Kim Nails. “We’ve just got to keep focused on the defensive end and give ourselves an opportunity [on offense].”
The closest that Springville got in the second half was 21-13 after Abbie Talton knocked down a pair of three-point baskets midway through the third quarter. But respective treys late in the period from Kaylee Brown and Savannah Nunn provided the hosts with a double-digit lead that they never relinquished.
Alexis Thompson’s three-pointer at 6:30 of the fourth quarter was the Lady Panthers’ final field goal of the game, but Southside went 14-for-19 at the free throw line over the last 5:22 to keep Springville at bay. The Lady Panthers shot 64 percent (23-for-36) for the game to Springville’s 42 percent (6-for-14).
“We knew that [Springville] really liked to shoot the 3 and that there’s not a very big gap against a team like that, so we couldn’t let up. Fortunately, we were able to answer when they had an open look and made a three-pointer.”
Alexis Thompson paved the way for the win, as the senior forward finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Alexis is a tremendous basketball player who has a lot of court knowledge,” said Nails. “She really stepped up tonight and led on both ends of the floor for us.”
Brown added 13 points for Southside, while Nunn chipped in six.
“They’re great girls, and they deserve [a spot in the regional tournament],” said Thompson. “We went two years undefeated in middle school and grew together from that point on. Now we’re here and we’re continuing to do that.”
Talton and Riley Barrett each scored six points for Springville.
Thompson scored the final eight points of the first quarter to help give Southside a 12-4 advantage after one quarter.
Neither team scored in the second period until Bennett Patterson’s foul shot at 4:12, which pulled Springville within 12-5. Nunn’s three-pointer on the ensuing possession provided the Lady Panthers with their first double digit lead of the night, and a free throw from Brown and a bucket by Thompson sent the hosts into halftime leading 19-7.
Talton’s two three-point baskets early in the second half kept the visitors within striking distance, but Thompson’s traditional three-point play pushed the lead back to 11 points, and three-pointers from Brown and Nunn with under two minutes left in the third quarter made it 33-19 heading into the final eight minutes.
The Lady Tigers never again made an extended scoring run, and Southside gradually built a 22-point lead by the midway point of the fourth quarter.
Nails, who was a point guard for the JSU women’s basketball team in the late 1980s, is looking forward to bringing the first Southside girls team to her alma mater. As head coach at Gadsden High from 1990-2000, Nails led the Lady Tigers to four Northeast Regional Tournament titles.
“You always want to a ‘first,’ and for years we hadn’t been able to achieve that,” she said. “But I think this group has been unified and really pulled it together, especially after [senior guard] Lauren [Hunt] got hurt [in late December]. It didn’t sidetrack our girls in the goals they had set, and they weren’t going to be denied.”