Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

February 4, 2014

Southland boys take region lead with close win over Deerfield, girls fall by nine

Stone, Weldon clutch down the stretch

AMERICUS — Deerfield-Windsor knew that only one team stood between them and the Region 3-AAA regular season title. That team was the Southland Academy Raiders, and on Saturday in Americus the Raiders helped derail the Knights’ dreams with a thrilling come-from-behind win driven by a complete team effort.

Prior to the heart-stopping boys’ match-up, Southland’s Lady Raiders had their chance to upset the visiting Lady Knights. Despite a strong opening period and a 9-2 run to end the game by the Lady Raiders, Deerfield’s depth proved to be too much as the visitors took the opener 49-40.

Freshman Madison McPherson helped Southland stay in the game in the first period by nailing six points and shooting four-for-four from the free throw line. At the end of one, the Lady Raiders were trailing by just one point, 11-10.

McPherson quickly put her team on top 12-11 after hitting two more free throws, but unfortunately for the home team that is the last time they would see the lead. After scoring seven points in the first quarter, sophomore Deerfield guard Nyla Perry ended the second period with three straight unanswered baskets to extend the Lady Knights’ lead to seven points, 21-14.

From that point until the final buzzer the two teams would continue to match shots, but the damage had already been done. After entering the fourth period trailing 37-27, Southland was only able to narrow the Deerfield lead to 49-40 as the game ended.

McPherson ended a huge game with another double-double consisting of 16 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Shattles also scored seven points for the Lady Raiders.

Perry added six second half points to bring her game-high total to 25, and she also added six steals, four assist, and four rebounds in the region win. With the win, Deerfield improved to 2-1 in the region, trailing only Tiftarea in the standings.

With the girls’ game concluded, Southland and Deerfield’s boys’ team took the court with huge stakes on the line. The winner of the game would have the inside track to the Region 3-AAA Title, and in the end that was very good news for the Raiders.

From the opening tip the Melvin T. Kinslow Gymnasium was rocking for the pivotal match-up. As the Raiders and Knights went back-and-fourth in scoring, Deerfield was able to pull ahead at the end of one quarter by a five-point margin, 16-11.

Geoffrey McDonald opened the second period with his second tip-in basket on a rebound to cut the lead to three, and once again the two rivals traded baskets all the way to the final seconds of the first half. Southland got a big momentum boost going into the break however as Dustin Shattles followed a long two-pointer by William Oster with a crucial three-point play to close out the second quarter. After being fouled on a shot that found the net, Shattles also sank the free-throw to narrow Deerfield’s lead to just 32-28.

After a strong start to third period, the Raiders took their first lead of the game with 4:57 left in the quarter. Following a shot by Rosser Stevens to pull Southland within one point, McDonald completed another offensive rebound-and-put-back combo to put Southland up 37-36. After trading leads three times, Shattles sent the Raiders into the fourth with a lead after stealing a pass and scoring on a fast-break lay-up to make the score 44-43 after three.

With three exciting periods already in the book, the fourth period was the most intense eight minutes of the game. As the Knights kept creeping closer and threatening the lead, Southland continued to get big shots to hold off the visitors. Deerfield was able to take a 55-53 lead late in the quarter, but Michael Volley erased the lead with back-to-back three point plays (a long three, and a basket-and-free-throw conversion). After another shot by Deerfield, Keyon Stone found Taylor Weldon for an easy score, and Stone added another basket and another assist to Weldon to close out the game and extend Southland’s margin of victory to 65-59.

According to Raider Head Coach Rundy Foster, the turning point came in the third quarter when Volley was forced to sit after falling in early foul trouble.

“The turning point was when Volley went out in the third quarter and our other guys stepped up. Dustin, Keyon, Geoffrey, William, Rosser, and Ford (Roach) really stepped up and proved to me and themselves that we are a complete team,” he said. “We can build upon that.”

Stone’s strong finish in the crucial game also helped him take the team lead in points scored with 20. Volley added 17 points and nine rebounds, and McDonald narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.

More importantly, the win for Southland moved them into a tie for first place in Region 3, with the Raiders holding the tiebreaker. Despite sitting comfortably atop the standings, Foster said that this is no time for his team to take a break.

“We’re in the driver’s seat, but everybody knows that now,” he said. “We are going to get everybody’s best game from here out, because we aren’t really a secret anymore.”

Southland will have another very important Region 3 doubleheader on Friday night when the Brookwood Lady Warriors and Warriors come to Americus. The girls’ game will begin at 6 p.m. and the boys’ game will tip off at 7:30 p.m.

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