Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

February 26, 2014

Southland Lady Raiders take second place in region tournament

ALBANY — The Southland Academy Lady Raiders knew that they could play with anyone in the region, and they proved it over the weekend in the Region 3-AAA Tournament at Darton College in Albany. After upsetting the number two seed, Tiftarea, on Friday night, the Lady Raiders narrowly missed the region title by losing an early lead to top-seeded Deerfield-Windsor on Saturday evening.

In two contests against Tiftarea earlier this season, Southland came up just short both times. Despite bringing an 0-2 record against the Lady Panthers into the semifinal game, the Lady Raiders knew that they had the ability to knock off the home team in the tournament opener.

Southland and Tiftarea traded baskets throughout the first period, leading to an 11-11 tie at the end of the quarter. The Lady Raiders used a strong 11-5 run in the second quarter to take a 22-16 lead into the halftime break with a lot of momentum.

“We had a little lead going into the half and we knew what they would be doing when they came out,” said Head Coach Paula McDonald. “We tried to get the kids ready for a dog fight when they returned from the locker room.”

That preparation helped the Lady Raiders withstand a comeback attempt by the Lady Panthers, and despite being outscored 13-8 in the third period they were still able to hold onto a 30-29 advantage going into the final frame.

The fourth quarter continued to be a dogfight, but once again the Lady Raiders held strong, and at the end of the game their punched their ticket to the championship contest with a 39-37 victory.

“Coach Kinslow and I saw a new side of the kids that we have not seen up to this point,” McDonald said. “They fought hard and fended off the Lady Panthers to win a berth to our first Region Final game in my tenure.”

Southland was led to the championship by senior Mary Melissa Roland, who paced the Lady Raiders with 11 points and nine rebounds. Ella Hawkins added 10 points and three steals, and senior Dallas NeSmith had eight points.

In the championship game on Saturday, Southland met a familiar foe in arch rival Deerfield-Windsor. Despite their lack of experience in championship games, the Lady Raiders came out like a pack of veterans in the first period to claim an early eight-point advantage.

McDonald’s squad hit nearly all of their shots in the first quarter to outscore the Lady Knights 20-12. The lead quickly disappeared in the second quarter, however, as Deerfield-Windsor fought back to the contest 24-24 going into the halftime break.

The third period proved to be the pivotal eight minutes of the championship battle. The Lady Knights were able to outscore Southland 13-9 to claim their first led of the night in the late moments of the game. Although Southland fought back in the fourth quarter, the Lady Knights were able to keep their lead intact and win the title with a 43-37 victory.

Hawkins scored 11 points in the championship contest and Roland and Hannah McCain also added six points and 10 rebounds combined.

Although Southland did not get the championship that they wanted, their strong run in the region tournament still gave them a big boost going into the state playoffs today. The No. 2 seed Lady Raiders will take on No. 3 seed Westminster of Augusta at 4 p.m. today at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon. If the Lady Raiders win, they will play on Friday at a time and place to be announced.

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