Southside stumbles

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2002

MOBILE – With less than five minutes left in Southside’s 5A quarterfinal matchup with defending state champion Blount, a glaze of panic came over Panthers guard Kelvin Murphy.

Down by 12 points at the time, Murphy and teammates scurried helplessly around the court, trying to disrupt the Leopards’ time consuming passing drill.

Their efforts proved futile, though, as Blount chewed up the clock, and in turn thwarted the Panthers’ drive toward Birmingham with a 69-54 southwest regional victory on Saturday at Mitchell Center on the campus of University of South Alabama.

“There comes a time when you don’t play as well as you should and unfortunately for us, that time was today,” said Panthers interim head coach Frankie Peoples, who missed out on taking his third Southside team to the final four.

“We’re a much better basketball team than we displayed today.”

The Panthers (23-3) were plagued by poor shooting from the field, hitting a paltry 38 percent. All told, Quindel Givan, Nelson Watters and Darryl Watts combined for 17 points. Watters, who put up a team-high 26 points in the Panthers’ win over B.C. Rain in the round of 16 on Wednesday, was an uncharacteristic 3-of-12 from the field.

But perhaps the most glaring reason for the Panthers loss was the performance of the Leopards’ bench, which scored 16 points. Add to that three of their starters were in double figures, including senior forward Kennedy Winston, who won tournament MVP honors.

Ironically, it wasn’t from the field where Winston did much of his damage. Instead, it was from the free-throw line, where Winston was 15-of-18, en route to a 28-minute, 24-point performance.

“It’s been like that the whole season,” the University of California commitment said.

“I felt good (at the line) today during the shoot around.”

Winston’s presence in the game was noticeable early in the contest, as the 6-foot-8 senior scored nine points, blocked three shots and pulled down two rebounds in the first period.

However, he got into foul trouble less than midway through the second quarter and was placed on the bench for the remainder of the half. The Panthers took advantage to Winston’s absence.

Down 18-12 at the start of the second period, the Panthers went on a 20-12 scoring run during the quarter, taking the lead 32-30 with less than a minute remaining. But Peoples knew his team required more points.

“We needed a bigger lead while he was on the bench,” Peoples said.

“I felt we could’ve taken control if we could’ve got a couple more shots to fall.”

Though they held a slim lead at half, the Panthers remained confident. Throughout the year they had been a better second-half team, proving it against B.C. Rain by overcoming a 10-point lead in the second half.

However, the Panthers came out off-kilter and were outscored 20-11 in the third. Blount’s third period surge was due to the return of Winston, who gave his team an obvious lift once he returned to the lineup.

“I knew it was going to be a plus once he got back in the game,” Leopards head coach Arthur Haynes said.

Said Leopards guard Donnie Broughton: “Everybody plays off of him. When we saw him come back with a lot of energy, it was a huge boost for us.”

The Panthers’ troubles were compounded when Blount forward Joe Hunter (13 points) took an alley-oop inbounds pass and delivered a two-handed dunk late in the period to push the lead to double digits for the first time since the initial period. The play sent the Blount crowd into bedlam and took an insurmountable toll on the Panthers.

“A dunk like that can kind of take your heart out of it,” said senior center Chuck Davis, who finished with 23 points and eight rebounds.

“But, it wasn’t so much the dunk as it was the score.”

Though there was a lot of time left in the contest, Haynes thought Hunter’s dunk was the possible game-clincher, he said. “I’m sure it left some serious doubts in their minds.”

As far as the much-anticipated Davis/Winston matchup was concerned, both players lived up to their potential. Davis was placed on the all-tournament team along with Winston and teammate Nelson Watters. Saturday’s game was the eighth time the two have been on the same court at the same time, Winston said.

“If that was the last battle (with Davis), it feels good to come out on top.”