HomeNewsSouth Side headed to the ‘ship after outlasting Elizabethton

South Side headed to the ‘ship after outlasting Elizabethton

Before Thursday night, South Side had one game in their first 32 that ended with a final score difference of fewer than 10 points.

The Lady Hawks had never been down by more than 10 points at any point in the season.

Both of those trends were challenged in the Class 3A semifinals when South Side needed two overtimes to beat Elizabethton 84-76, improving their record to 33-0.

The Lady Hawks will next play on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Livingston Academy in the Class 3A championship.

Elizabethton had more size than most teams South Side had faced this season with four girls that had significant playing time that matched up in height with Miss Basketball finalist Ti’Mia Lawson and Jaidynn Askins.

“We had film on them, and they were playing man defense on most of the film we saw,” said South Side coach Brent McNeal. “So when they came back in that 2-3 zone, we had to make a couple of adjustments.

“But it was a great game plan by them.”

South Side had a hard time getting into an offensive rhythm because of that zone defense.

The Lady Cyclones scored the first six points of the game and held the lead between two and five points for much of the first quarter before going on a 15-4 run that lasted most of the second quarter, giving them a 30-15 lead.

“We went into halftime, and Coach told us to keep fighting, keep fighting,” Lawson said after the game. “And that was the mentality we tried to have the whole time.”

McNeal said his belief is that his team will always have a chance as long as there’s still time on the clock, and he said he kept pushing them while also making adjustments as the game went along.

“We just had to be patient on offense and wait for our shots, and they did come,” McNeal said. “And we made adjustments on defense and calmed down.”

The adjustments and calmer play worked as South Side worked its way back into the game with a 12-4 run in the third quarter.

The Lady Hawks took their first lead of the game when Albany Collins hit a 3-pointer with 2:42 remaining in the third for a 43-42 lead.

Lawson’s shooting fueled much of the scoring run, but Jaidynn Askins’ play under the basket fighting for rebounds, second-chance points and contested shots helped as well.

“Coach told me to step up again, and I did have to because I was playing like I didn’t want to be there,” Askins said.

Elizabethton kept the lead for most of the fourth quarter, pulling away by as many as six with six minutes left. The teams traded the lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation before going to overtime tied at 63-63.

Each team scored four in the first overtime as key players for both teams fouled out and they tried to adjust. South Side lost Kimora Currie and Akira Lacy.

South Side pulled away in the second overtime as Elizabethton fell behind by three points with a minute to go and resorted to fouling to slow the clock.

Lawson was the one who went to the free throw line most often in that final minute with Jakkarah Anderson making a couple of trips as well. They made all their free throws in that final minute to pull away to the final advantage.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a natural free throw shooter,” Lawson said when asked about her free throw shooting abilities. “They come when they come.”

Lawson did hit 16 of 21 from the line to lead the Lady Hawks with 36 points. Akins finished with 20, and Collins had 13.

The game ended just before 8 p.m. on Thursday. The championship tips off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, giving the Lady Hawks 39 hours before their next game after having played their two most tense games of the season.

“If we were playing [Friday] I’d be worried about it, but we’ve got tomorrow to rest, drink water, massage and recuperate,” McNeal said. “Plus these are 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old athletes.

“I don’t think this game will have much of an effect on them by the time Saturday morning gets here. But I’m proud of the way they fought and kept pushing. Now we’re back where it ended last year with another shot at coming home as champions.” Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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