HomeSportsSouth Side girls back at state after pulling away from Murfreesboro Central

South Side girls back at state after pulling away from Murfreesboro Central

Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good Times” played on the PA system inside the gym at South Side High School Saturday night.

Lady Hawks head coach Brent McNeal held the ladder as each player on the team, assistant coach Adrian Comer and trainer Georgia Mitchell cut the net to celebrate their 60-37 victory over Murfreesboro Central in their Class 3A sectional matchup.

The win puts the Lady Hawks (31-0) in the Class 3A state tournament for the second consecutive season – the third time in McNeal’s tenure as head coach.

“Everybody has the goal of making it to the state tournament when the season starts,” McNeal said during a postgame press conference with the remnants of the net hanging around his neck. “But circumstances happen, players get hurt, the ball can bounce the wrong way and you may not make it there.

“But we’re fortunate, blessed and favored to get back there.”

Even though the Lady Hawks won by 23 points, the win didn’t come without some drama in the first half.

South Side never jumped out to a commanding lead in the first quarter or opening moments of the second quarter, with their biggest lead coming at 13-8 with 3:15 remaining in the first.

Central’s defense of double- and triple-teaming Miss Basketball finalist Ti’Mia Lawson and their rebounding ability to not allow the Lady Hawks to get second-chance shots slowed South Side’s offensive production.

And South Side’s defense did manage to force 10 turnovers in the first quarter, but the Lady Hawks had trouble capitalizing.

With 3:11 remaining, Central tied the game at 16-16. That’s when McNeal called a timeout to talk things over with the players.

“They were doing a great job dictating the pace of the game, and we weren’t speeding it up,” McNeal said. “So we talked about getting up and down the floor and playing our brand of basketball.”

One particular player had to get a specific message – sophomore Jaidynn Akins.

“Coach told me I wasn’t playing as hard as I should be and I needed to step up,” Askins said. “So that’s what I tried to do.”

McNeal said his message was a little more technical.

“We saw a mismatch there for her, and she wasn’t taking advantage of it,” McNeal said. “She went back out there and really started pushing, and that advantage really started working in rebounding the ball then it translated to more points.”

The Lady Hawks responded to the timeout message by scoring the final 12 points of the quarter to take a 28-16 lead into halftime.

They slowly built on that lead in the third quarter with Akins scoring six points in the period and Lawson scoring four.

Askins scored 10 more points in the fourth quarter – including six straight – to finish with 23 on the night to lead the Lady Hawks.

“Getting back to state is something we’ve been waiting on all year, and to be at that point now is great,” Askins said. “I’m ready to go now.”

The Lady Hawks will play in the state quarterfinals Tuesday as Class 3A’s matchups will be the first four games of the week.

“We’ll find out who we play [Sunday],” McNeal said. “And after that we’ll work on exchanging film and getting ready for the next round.

“To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the turnaround, but all of us who are playing Tuesday played tonight, so we’ll try to treat it like a typical weekend turnaround of playing on Saturday then playing again on a Tuesday like we would during the regular season.”

Lawson finished the night with 18 points, while Albany Collins finished with 10.

Brandon Shields,

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