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Southland hoops sweeps Glenwood in Americus

By MICHAEL MURRAY

AMERICUS – The Southland Academy Raiders and Lady Raiders had quite an exciting evening on Jan. 15, hosting non-conference rivals, the Glenwood Gators and Lady Gators.
The Lady Raiders kicked off the action, with the Southland girls battling to a scrappy 33-27 victory over the visiting Lady Gators. Soon after, the Raiders took the court to claw their way to a 37-26 victory over their guests, the Gators, in a low-scoring, but action-packed match-up.
The win boosts the Raiders overall record to an impressive 10-2 on the season. The Raiders are yet to be bested in region 3-IAAA play after three contests. The afternoon’s early match marked the Lady Raiders’ third win of the season.
The Southland girls took the court with a fury in the evening’s opener, eager to prove themselves a formidable opponent for the visiting Alabama team. Both teams came out strong in the first quarter, matching each others’ scores point-for-point over the first eight minutes of play. By the end of the initial frame, the Lady Gators had edged a 7-6 advantage over their hosts.
Southland’s Kendall Kirkland took care of that ten seconds into the second quarter, however, sinking a free throw to equalize the score. Over the next four minutes, Glenwood retook the lead, tacking on another six points before a Chris Shattles-assisted lay-up by Kirkland sparked the Lady Raiders into action. By the 2:30 mark, a perimeter shot by Shattles and a converted rebound from Savannah Banks had pulled the Lady Raiders back into the fray, tying the score 13-13. The teams continued to fight through the remainder of the half before, nine seconds before the break, Kathleen Kinslow deftly drained a trio of shots from the charity stripe to give the Lady Raiders their first lead of the game. Southland’s girls took a 16-15 advantage into the locker room at half-time.
The game saw two lead changes early in the second half before the Lady Raiders finally pulled ahead for good at the five-minute mark with a Cassi Bass-assisted lay-up tossed in by Macy Williams. Over the next four minutes, Kinslow and Bass each drained long three-pointers from the wing to push the Lady Raiders to a 25-19 lead as the final period commenced.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Raiders continued to forge their way ahead over the full eight minutes. To highlight the period, Shattles managed an expert steal which she converted into an assist to Bass, who was waiting under the bucket. Banks was instrumental in the final stanza as well, consistently setting stellar picks to open up the lane for Southland’s shooters to attack the rim.
In a last-ditch effort, a Glenwood shooter connected on a trey with five seconds left in the game to narrow the Lady Raiders’ potential nine-point victory to only six points. At the final buzzer, the Lady Raiders found themselves on the high end of a 33-27 win.
After the home crowd’s celebration died down, the Raiders hit the court looking to turn the evening into a clean sweep of the visiting Gators.
Both teams came out strong, with their tight defenses stubbornly refusing to cede an inch of ground to their opponents. Despite the fact that Glenwood brought a very tall line-up that, on average, out-sized the Raiders’ shooters by a couple of inches, both teams would soon realize that they were facing some of the most evenly balanced players that they are likely to see all season.
The Raiders’ defensive press proved very effective at shutting down the visiting opponents over the initial period. The Gators responded in kind, however, fortifying their own defenses to keep the Raiders’ shooters from approaching the lane and forcing Southland’s boys to take heavily-guarded perimeter shots.
The teams traded possessions at least 20 times over the initial seven minutes of play, with neither team seeing a chance to put up more than a single shot on a trip down the court.
Finally, with thirty seconds remaining on the clock in the first period, Southland’s Jamaal Rice broke the seal for the Raiders, tossing up a single free throw to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead heading into the second frame.
Having the first score out of the way seemingly opened the flood gates and the teams began racking up the points through the remainder of the half. Parker Weldon hit a long three-pointer thirty seconds into the second frame to put the Raiders up 4-0, but the Gators soon evened the gap with a pair of perimeter shots. Landon Henson added two more treys from the backfield while Ridge Roland converted a steal into a lay-up to leave the Raiders ahead 12-11 at the half-time break.
Glenwood quickly took the lead in the third frame, but Henson, assisted by Rice, tossed in a lay-up and one to put the Raiders up for good at 15-14. The Raiders would pull ahead by as many as seven points over the next six minutes, aided in part by another spot-on three-pointer from Alex Roach. By the end of the frame, however, Glenwood had clawed their way back into contention, narrowing the Raiders’ lead to 25-23.
Glenwood squared up the score with a fast break lay-up early in the fourth, but another pair of treys from Roach soon put the game out of reach. Southland continued to pull away over the next five minutes, which were highlighted by a penetrating lay-up from Rice and a show-stopping block from Roach that made the home fans erupt in cheers. Southland’s Josh McKie sealed Southland’s 37-26 victory with a lay-up to cap off the competition.
Henson set the pace for the Raiders in the victory, sinking a pair of three-pointers on his way to 11 points. Roach connected on three shots from beyond the arc to tack on another nine points for the Southland cause. Rice contributed eight points to the win.
The Raiders and Lady Raiders return to region 3-IAAA action on Jan. 19, traveling to Albany to take on the Deerfield-Windsor Knights. Southland’s hoops stars will return to their home court on Jan. 21 to host the Westwood Wildcats.