Southside wins title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Southside High’s starting five sat on the bench for the final two minutes, 14 seconds of Monday night’s area championship, their faces covered with serious glares at what was transpiring on the Panthers’ home court.

The staid looks that covered the Panthers’ mugs were a sharp contrast from the way they played in the first half before finally pulling out a 75-47 win over Trinity.

The victory gave Southside (27-2) its first Class 4A, Area 4 title under third-year head coach Velton Robinson after dropping the past two area finals.

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The Panthers will host their sub-regional tournament beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. Southside will face Tallassee, a 69-34 loser to Central Coosa in the Class 4A, Area 7 final, in the first round.

“This is great for the kids and it’s great for the program,” Robinson said. “We weren’t running our offense like we were supposed to in the first half. We started playing through some adversity in the second half.”

The adversity of which Robinson mentioned was a large, physical team that was not intimidated by the Panthers’ speed or pressing defense. Trinity, in fact, got the Panthers into early foul trouble with a strong inside game. Forward Tommy Trott scored consecutive lay-ups late in the first half to cut the Panthers’ lead to 23-18.

“We weren’t taking them seriously,” Southside junior guard Jermarcus Hardy said. “We weren’t playing hard the first half. We were pretty much taking them lightly.”

The Panthers’ lackadaisical attitudes had them clinging to an eight-point lead at halftime, far from the 63-31 pounding they put on St. James in the first half in Saturday night’s semifinal.

That all changed, however, in the third period as Southside’s motion defense came to life.

Leading 37-32, Southside went on an 11-0 run midway through the third period to pull away. Fontano Watters started the run with a three-pointer from the right corner. Following a Trinity turnover, Hardy sent a cross-court pass to Deonta Williams, who slammed it home to stretch the lead to double-digits, 42-32.

Travis Shine and Hardy cleaned up from there, adding back-to-back three-pointers that grew Southside’s lead to 48-32.

The Southside defense also picked up the pace after a sluggish first half. The Panthers’ interior defense that surrendered several baseline baskets in the first 16 minutes quickly became more imposing and physical. Trinity forward Bart Eddins ran the left baseline in search of a quick lay-up, only to have Williams swat the ball away.

Trott, who was able to meander his way through the Panthers in the first half, was suddenly shut down. Trott tried weaving through the paint, but instead had the ball taken from his hands by Jeffery Anderson. The Southside center then dished ahead to Hardy, who knocked down a short jumper that opened the Panthers’ lead to 52-33 late in the third period.

Williams added two more superb offensive plays in the fourth. The 6-3, 184-pounder ducked a double team to finish a lay-up for a 62-43 lead. Moments later, Williams ran the left baseline for his third dunk of the game to give the Panthers a 21-point cushion, 64-43.

“We won because the guys started running,” Robinson said. “We don’t worry about the physical teams we’re going to play the rest of the way. We can play physical, too.”

Hardy agreed, saying no team can beat the Panthers if they continue on their course.

“No team is a match for us,” he said, “as long as we play keep playing hard.”