Lady Raiders win first region tournament championship in 20 years

Published 1:50 pm Monday, February 11, 2019

AMERICUS – There’s an old saying that is used primarily in football circles: Defense wins championships. However, that has been the mantra all year for the Southland Academy Lady Raiders. Throughout the 2018-19 season, the Lady Raiders have used their tenacious, hard-nosed defense to force opponents into committing turnovers and converting those turnovers into points. Their defensive pressure has also shut down their opponents’ best offensive players. It was no different on Friday, February 8. The Lady Raiders used their defense, along with timely scoring, to defeat the Lady Warriors of Brookwood 44-30 to win their first GISA Region 3-AAA Tournament championship in 20 years.

According to Southland Academy (SA) head coach Ty Kinslow, in the process of winning the game, the Lady Raiders held Brookwood’s best player, Erin Lewis, to just nine points. Lewis scored 23 points and hit six three-pointers in the Lady Warriors’ 62-58 win over Deerfield-Windsor in the region tournament semifinals on Thursday, February 7. In that game, the Lady Warriors hit a total of 13 three-pointers.

“She (Lewis) didn’t get but three shot attempts today,” Kinslow said. “We knew that was going to be the key to the game, hound and pressure them. We pressured them full court for 32 minutes, and we wanted to keep them from shooting three-pointers. That’s what we did. The girls stayed composed. I think we lost our composure only twice during the game, but we got it back. We were led by seniors and they did a fantastic job of keeping the team composed. That’s the first region tournament championship for our girls in 20 years.”

SA senior point guard Sydney Payne cutting down a piece of the net after the Southland Academy girls won their first region championship in 20 years.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

SA point guard Sydney Payne led all scorers with 15 points. Macy Williams scored nine and Holly McCain chipped in seven in the winning cause.

Brookwood (BS) had two players in double-figures. Jordan Thompson led the Lady Warriors with 13 points and Mollie Vick scored 10.

Both teams went toe-to-toe early in the game. However, with Brookwood leading 7-6, the Lady Raiders went on a 5-0 run to close out the first quarter. Payne scored all of those five points. She hit a jumper with under a minute left. Then with about 11 seconds left, Payne drove to the basket and scored. She was fouled on the play and converted the three-point play to close out the first quarter.

Sydney Payne (12) tries to dribble past a Brookwood defender.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Early in the second quarter, McCain hit a jumper to give the Lady Raiders a 13-7 lead.

The Lady Warriors responded by scoring two straight baskets to begin the second quarter. Both teams went through a scoring drought, but SA led 15-13 with 4:20 to go in the half.

BS continued their full-court pressure, as they had been doing from the start, but the Lady Raiders were able to break it. Macy Williams was fouled while shooting, but only made one free throw. However, Jordan Thompson drained a three-pointer to tie the game at 16-16. The score remained that way until Calyn Fort scored on the inside for the Lady Raiders. Both teams traded baskets the rest of the way and both teams were tied at 20-20 at the half.

Payne led the Raiders in first-half scoring with seven points and Holly McCain scored six of her game-total of seven points in the first half.

SA guard Reese Roland with the ball against Brookwood.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Lady Raiders outscored BS 6-3 through the first five minutes of the third quarter until the Lady Warriors scored with a little over two minutes left. Then with 50 seconds left, McCain scored on the inside to give SA a 28-25 lead. Both teams turned the ball over on their next possessions, but SA still led 28-25 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Both teams went through a scoring drought through half of the fourth quarter. The Lady Raiders had scored the only basket of the quarter until Ann Murray Jackson hit two free throws for BS with 4:24 to go. This was the beginning of a 4-0 run by the Lady Warriors. With 3:57 to go, Kinslow called a timeout to help his club regroup.

Out of the timeout, the Lady Raiders worked the ball around the perimeter against the man-to man defense of BS. They were able to find Williams on the inside for a basket, which put SA up 32-29. Maddie Crisp then hit a three-pointer, and the Lady Raiders were up 35-29. The Lady Raiders were able to score on a free throw, and with 1:28 to go, SA had a tenuous 35-30 lead.

With 1:15 to go, Fort was fouled. She made the first of a one-and-one, then made the second to give SA at 37-30 lead.

At this point, all the Lady Raiders needed to do to win was protect the basketball, play good defense without fouling, and make free throws. Williams made two more free throws with under a minute to play to put SA up 39-30.

After a timeout by the Lady Raiders, Sydney Payne was fouled and made one of two free throws. BS was unable to score on their next possession, and Payne was fouled again with 30.2 seconds left. She made both free throws to give SA a 42-30 lead. The Lady Warriors came up empty again on their nest possession, and Fort was fouled with 20.1 seconds left. She made both free throws to salt away the 44-30 victory and the Region Tournament Championship for the Lady Raiders.

SA goes into the GISA AAA State Tournament as the #1 seed out of Region 3. They will host Creekside Christian Academy on Tuesday, February 12, in the first round of the state tournament. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.