Lady Panthers fade late against Scottsboro in regional finals

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Photo: Southside High’s Madison Shaw (23) goes up for a layup as Scottsboro’s Isabelle Nelson defends during the Lady Panthers’ 42-39 loss in the Class 5A Northeast Regional Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at JSU. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Much to the disappointment of the Southside High girls basketball team, its season came to an end precisely where the 2022-23 Lady Panthers left off – with a loss in the Class 5A Northeast Regional Tournament finals at Jacksonville State University.
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Southside (26-5) rallied from an 11-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead over Scottsboro with 63 seconds left.
Southside, however, could not maintain the advantage down the stretch. A pair of turnovers led to four points by the Lady Wildcats, with Tatum Shelton’s two free throws with seven seconds left sealing the 42-39 victory and sending Scottsboro onto the Elite Eight state tournament next week in Birmingham.
A subpar shooting performance did not help the Lady Panthers’ cause.
Southside shot 38 percent (11-for-29) from the field, 25 percent (3-for-12) from the foul line and 52 percent (14-for-27). The Lady Panthers led for only 52 seconds of game time.
“I thought the only thing that would stop us today was if we played uncharacteristic of the normal game that we play,” said Southside head coach Justin Bowen. “It came down to execution, and unfortunately, we didn’t execute very well.
“I don’t think we finished around the rim very well, and missing so many free throws was critical. We’re obviously very disappointed in the outcome, especially when you lose by the margin that we lost by.”
Trailing 21-14 at the start of the second half, Southside saw its deficit grow to double digits when consecutive three-point baskets from Shelton and Grace White put the Lady Panthers in a 28-18 hole.
Southside managed only two field goals during the third quarter, both by Grace Ann Rose, who finished with a team-high 15 points. Scottsboro entered the final period leading 31-20.
The Lady Wildcats padded their advantage courtesy of six straight points from Shelton, setting Southside back 36-24 with 6:38 remaining. That’s when Scottsboro attempted to drain the clock with multiple passes on offense while hoping to get into the bonus free throw situation.
That strategy played right into Southside’s hands, as the Lady Panthers went to a full and half-court press to create turnovers. A three pointer along with a traditional three-point play from Madison Shaw pulled Southside within 36-30 at 2:45, leading to a Scottsboro timeout. Three straight turnovers by Scottsboro led to an 8-0 Southside run, the final basket being Laylah Davis’ three-pointer that tied the game at 38 with 1:45 left.
Another Scottsboro turnover led to a free throw by Rose which gave the Lady Panthers their first lead since early in the second quarter.
“People might ask why we didn’t press like that the whole game, but [Scottsboro] has some really good shooters,” said Bowen. “So you’re kind of playing with fire in that you might get some turnovers but they’re also going to take some 3 [point basket attempts] and you have to hope they miss them.”
Rose’s foul shot turned out to be the final point of the game for Southside. A turnover and a possession arrow that favored Scottsboro forced the Lady Panthers to foul, and Shelton’s two free throws with 52 seconds remaining provided the Lady Wildcats the lead for good.
Shaw finished with nine points, followed by Mallory Brooks with seven and Davis with six. Shelton and Tournament MVP Bree Sexton each scored 12 points, while Isabelle Nelson added seven.
With the game tied 7-7 after the first quarter, Shaw’s jump shot early in the second frame gave the Lady Panthers a 9-7 lead. Rose’s layup with 50 seconds left in the first half drew Southside within 18-14 before Tatum knocked down a three-pointer in the closing seconds for a 21-14 Scottsboro lead.
“Today’s outcome doesn’t take away the fact that this group of girls has made a lot of history through the last two years,” said Bowen. “Me and these six seniors (Rose, Shaw, Davis, Mallory Brooks, Jovi Marble and Sarakate Yancey) have a special relationship, and ultimately, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with them this season, and now that’s it’s over with, I won’t see them very often.
“It was great to see how the school and the community rallied behind us the past few years,” said Bowen. “I feel that one of the biggest things on campus right now is Southside girls basketball, and that’s because of these girls and the hard work that they’ve put in.”
“Having the success we had last year helped prepare us for this season,” said Davis. “We wanted to go further than we did this year, but we didn’t execute enough today to get to where we wanted to go. But I think that this year people have a lot more respect for us, and it was fun to see how much other teams wanted to beat us.”
“We really wanted more, but we didn’t execute, and that’s on us,” said Rose. “But I really love my teammates and my coach.”
“This is the best group of girls I’ve ever been around, and I wouldn’t trade our time together for the world,” said Brooks. “Our freshman and sophomore seasons weren’t the best times, and to see the amount of support over the past few years has been great.”
Rose and Shaw made the All-Tournament team.

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