South Side’s season in girls’ basketball has been about facing adversity, but the Lady Hawks’ opening win at the Class 3A state tournament in Murfreesboro might’ve also been a little redemption too.
South Side (32-0) is one of four teams remaining in the state after knocking off defending state champion Upperman 44-31 on Tuesday.
Upperman was the last team to beat South Side in the state championship last year.
“Their coach and I were talking before the game asking how this could be a first-round game,” said South Side coach Brent McNeal.
The matchup – which according to the state’s Associated Press sports writers pitted the No. 1 team in the state from South Side against the third-ranked team – played like a heavyweight fight in the first half.
The teams felt each other out early on and both tried to limit the other’s shots.
The result was a 15-15 tie at halftime.
A pair of back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third quarter from Kimora Currie and Albany Collins gave the Lady Hawks a six-point advantage. McNeal said at a time when points were coming at a premium, that lead felt similar to a 12-point lead in just about any other game.
“Both teams were making scoring difficult, so any cushion you could get felt like you’d done something,” McNeal said. “But at the same time, we knew they could make up that ground in just two or three possessions.”
But since they had the cushion, McNeal told the players to get back and play their game of fast-paced basketball.
“We never want to force anything like jump out there and try to steal the ball when you don’t need to,” McNeal said. “But most teenagers aren’t able to think on their feet, and that’s what we’re trying to get our opponent to do.
“We do that by playing fast, pressing on defense and pushing it up the floor as much as possible. When you’re constantly playing at that pace, we’re looking to capitalize on any mistakes the other team might make.”
That’s how South Side was able to gradually pull away to its 13-point win.
Ti’Mia Lawson led South Side with 16 points, eight of which coming from the free throw line. Jaidynn Askins had 10.
Up next in the semifinals is Elizabethton, who eliminated Dyersburg in overtime just before South Side played Upperman.
“I watched the first half of that game before we went to the locker room and got ready,” McNeal said.