Brent McNeal was tired Saturday night. He was a little hoarse too.
The head girls’ basketball coach at South Side had just led the Lady Hawks to their third consecutive district championship by beating South Gibson 46-32 in the 12-3A championship at South Gibson.
The first time the teams played in Medina in January, South Side won by three points – their first real challenge late in the fourth quarter since before Thanksgiving.
When they played in Jackson 10 days later, South Side won by 16 after pulling ahead early and keeping that lead and holding off a couple of runs in the third and early fourth quarters.
This time, this was a dominant win by the Lady Hawks except for a second-quarter run in which the Lady Hornets – who fell behind by nine in the opening minutes of the game, pulled to within two, 16-14, about midway through the second quarter.
“South Gibson is a great team, and we knew they’d go on a run at some point,” McNeal said about that run. “But our girls have enough experience, and we’d already played them twice, to expect it and not panic when it happened.”
South Side outscored the home team 13-3 the rest of the quarter and then won the second half 17-15 to maintain the lead for the championship and their unbeaten record at 27-0.
“I’m so proud of this team and these girls,” McNeal said. “Everything they’ve accomplished, we’ve made sure they worked hard for it, and they have.”
One player that McNeal was particularly proud of was sophomore Jaidynn Askins, who was named the district tournament MVP.
“That first game we played up here, we were a little hard on her watching film afterward because of little things she could better here and there,” McNeal said. “But we knew everything we saw was fixable, and she did that.
“We told her that those seniors would get a lot of the attention and focus, and when they did, that would be the time for her to really make her impact. And she did that in this game.”
The Lady Hawks are unbeaten, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3A by the Associated Press and they’re playing at home against an old rival – Hardin County or Lexington – on Friday in the Region 6-3A quarterfinals.
While many Lady Hawk fans are confident in the team’s ability to make it through region and sectionals to get to state in Murfreesboro, that’s not on McNeal’s mind and he says it’s not on the mind of anyone inside his team’s locker room.
“We’ve got six days before our next game, and we’re taking [Sunday] off to go to Ole Miss and watch them and South Carolina,” McNeal said. “Then we’ve got President’s Day off, and we’ll get in there like a normal day and lift and practice.
“It’s back to business because we’ve got a big game on Friday that we can’t overlook anyone because the other team on the court wants to keep winning and playing too. We’ve got to take care of our own business, and right now, it’s winning another game at home on Friday.”Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org