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Southridge's comeback falls just short


by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge senior post Madison Weaver makes her way to the rim for a lay-up in the first quarter of the Skyhawks' loss to Central Catholic.

Give this to the Southridge girls’ basketball team. They might be short on experience with just three seniors on the roster, but they’re not lacking in resiliency.

Trailing 30-19 at halftime to 6A defending state champion Central Catholic after a slew of turnovers and sluggish defense, the Skyhawks sprung to life.

Roaring back with improved poise against the Rams’ fullcourt press, and an inspired defensive effort, Southridge had a chance for the upset win, pulling within 53-52 with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Skyhawks got the ball to Margaret Brock, who scored 13 points in the second half. The junior post faked right, took one dribble into the key for a jump hook and appeared to be fouled on the play. However, the referee didn’t call the hack as Brock was rocked out of the key, leaving Southridge with a 53-52 season-opening defeat on Friday at the Northwest Invitational.

Still, in spite of the loss, the Skyhawks’ booming second half filled with exceptional defense and high-quality offensive possesions had Southridge feeling good about themselves. Southridge outscored Central Catholic 33-23 in the second half, and had a great shot at victory in the game’s waning moments.

“The second half was fun for all of us,” said Brock, who finished with six rebounds. “We came in at the end of the game and were all really excited. Even though we lost, we were really happy with the outcome because it ended up being fun. We never gave up, and that’s what type of team we are. Even if we’re losing, we’re not going to quit, and I think that’s what really made the difference in the second half.”

Breaking in a number of sophomores and juniors who saw a sparse amount of playing time last year, Southridge trailed 26-9 with 2:51 to go in the second quarter, but scratched back into contention with hustle and dedication to the defensive end.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior combo guard Makenna Bell puts up a teardrop off the glass for two against Central Catholic on Friday.

“This was a really big step for us,” said junior combo guard Makenna Bell. “Last year we lost a bunch of seniors and starters, and this is basically a new team. It was a great way to show everyone that we can do the kind of things that no one thought we could do like come so close to the defending state champions. We played well and came together.”

“In the first half we were nervous,” said senior forward Madison Weaver. “But in the second half we came out strong and with our heads up. Our confidence was a lot higher.”

Brock said Southridge rushed its passes against Central Catholic’s full-court press and never came to a jump stop on the full run to retain control of the basketball. But, once the Skyhawks settled in and deciphered where the pressure was coming from, Southridge was able to beat the tough defense and get into their offensive sets.

“We didn’t play good in the first half at all,” said Brock. “But, during halftime, our coaches really tried to pump us up. Our teammates got together, tried to pump each other up. I think it really made a difference because we came out with as much energy as we possibly could.”

In the third quarter, Brock poured in seven points, Dayna Carlson tallied four, and Andie Giles hit a big three that cut Central’s lead to 37-36 with 1:12 left in the third.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridg shooting guard Andie Giles throws up a three-pointer in the first quarter of the Skyhawks' close loss to Central Catholic on Friday. Giles hit two three's during the contest and finished with 8 points.

“We tried to make sure the pass was actually open before we passed it,” said Brock. “We slowed down, and it showed in the second half. We didn’t have nearly as many turnovers.”

“The press really hurt us in the first half,” added Bell. “Once we were able to figure out how to get by it and slow down the game, that was a major game-changer. We let the nerves get to us in the first half, but as we got more comfortable it was easier to focus in on what we needed to do to beat it.”

Central took a 49-39 in the fourth quarter, but Brock made two free throws, Beth George canned a three off a pass from Giles, and Kaley Fieldhouse and Bell hit a free throw each to pull within 49-46 with 1:50 left.

Brock’s offensive putback with 50 seconds left made it 53-49, then Bell and Fieldhouse released the hounds on the Rams. First, Fieldhouse and Bell combined to tie up the Rams’ point guard for a jump ball with 43 seconds left that gave the ball back to Southridge. Then, Giles drove left, spotted Beth George open on the right wing open and hit the junior guard with a chest high pass that George cashed in for three to pull within 53-52 with 29 seconds left.

“Our communication on defense was really good,” said Weaver. “We told each other who was on help side, and that really helped during the second half.”

The Skyhawk backcourt backed George’s triple by pressing the Rams 94 feet up on the floor with in-your-jersey defense that forced a 10-second violation and lent Southridge a final chance for the upset win.

Bell said early on Southridge was worried about Central’s skilled, athletic ballhandlers, and initially gave them a lot of space in lieu of getting beat off the bounce. However, that changed as the Rams caught the turnover bug in the third quarter, primarily due to the pressure placed on them by Fieldhouse and Bell.

“Eventually, we realized we didn’t have much to fear,” said Bell. “As long as we played hard and talked to each other on defense, we could get into their faces as much as possible to start turning the ball over and kind of get the tempo on our side.”

The second half turnaround was sparked Bell who scored 13 of her 15 total points in the final two quarters. Weaver was big as well, chipping in 10 points and seven boards, including four on the offensive glass. Spurred by their teammates’ encouragement, the posts’ effort was rock-solid in the second half and acted as a stabilizer during the furious rally.

“The second half was so much fun for me because of the energy,” said Brock. “Energy from my teammates, they pumped me up. I know if they’re on my side and I have their backs, then I know I can make those shots. My teammates always help me.”