By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Southside High used a frenetic defense to storm past Sardis, 63-32, in the semifinals of the Etowah County Schools Tournament on Wednesday (Jan. 18) at Glencoe.
The Lady Panthers (17-2) earned a berth in the county championship game on Friday (Jan. 20) at 6 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s Hokes Bluff/Glencoe semifinal.
The Class 6A No. 9 Lady Panthers jumped out to an 8-0 lead after forcing several turnovers in the opening minutes of the game. Southside led 16-8 after the first quarter.
Once the Lady Lions began breaking the Southside press, they still could not execute offensively in the halfcourt, and the Lady Panthers took a 32-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Southside head coach Kim Nails said that her team depends on its defense to create scoring opportunities.
“We depend on our defense to create our offense every game, and that’s worked for us.
Defense travels. It goes everywhere you go. Defense is something I think you can always control. You can’t always fill it up, but you can always play defense and rebound.”
Senior Kelsey Patterson led the way on both ends of the floor for the Lady Panthers. She finished with a game-high 19 points and recorded nine steals.
Southside increased the pressure defensively after halftime, forcing five turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half. The Lady Lions finished the game with 24 turnovers. The Lady Panthers dominated the third quarter and carried a 51-26 lead into the fourth.
Patterson hit six of her eight free throws in the final quarter.
“It’s a big deal for the county schools,” Nails said. “Everybody is playing for a championship. Of course, we want to win it. We’re excited to be there. You’ve got to get to the championship to possible be a champion, so we’re excited we’re in the championship.”
Nails said while she thought her team played well defensively, they still need to improve fundamentally and need to rebound better as a team.
“Rebounding is an area we didn’t do a good job of consistently,” she said. “We need to play fundamental defense. Sometimes we play defense but it is not always sound. We’ve got to keep playing good defense but be more fundamentally sound in our defensive approach.”
Mallary Smith scored nine points for the Lady Panthers, followed by Lauren Hunt and Maci Williams chipped in eight and seven points, respectively. Carley Gardner led Sardis with 11 points.