Seahawks face tall task vs. Cougars

Published 9:39 pm Monday, February 28, 2011

Southside coach Bill Lake (center) talks to his team during a game earlier this season. On Wednesday, Lake and the Seahawks will clash with Goldsboro in the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional playoff battle in Fayetteville.

]CHOCOWINITY — The challenges just keep getting bigger for the Southside girls basketball team. Just a few days after knocking off Ayden-Grifton and its dynamic duo of forwards Karen-Nia Edmonds and Derrica Jones to win the NCHSAA 1-A sectional championship, the Seahawks now face a tall order in stopping a gigantic Cougars frontcourt in the East Regional round of the playoffs.

Goldsboro (22-4), the No. 1 seed from the Carolina Conference, enters its matchup with Southside (22-3), the No. 1 seed from the Four Rivers Conference, led by 5-10 forward Alexus Myles (11.9 ppg) and 6-0 center Kasheika Wallace (11 ppg, 8 rpg.)

Overall, the Cougars have six players that are 5-10 or bigger, and that presents a huge obstacle to a guard-orientated Southside team that is led by perimeter players Katisha Hyman (17 ppg), Chante Painter (9 ppg) and Quaneika Thomas (7 ppg).

“From what I understand they are tall, big and physical,” Southside coach Bill Lake said after returning from the NCHSAA East Regional press conference held in Fayetteville on Monday morning. “We are just going to have to try hard to prepare for them.”

Lake and the Seahawks have already overcome a team that had predominant frontcourt players when they beat Ayden-Grifton on Friday to advance to the East Regional round of the playoffs. Lake said he hopes that experience can better prepare his team for its Wednesday clash with the Cougars at the Crown Arena at 7 p.m.

“I think it was a big help. Ayden-Grifton was a good team, playing them allowed us to try some things against bigger players,” Lake said. “They had some great athletes that really challenged our girls and we learned some things from playing them.”

Goldsboro reached the East Regional round by topping wild card entry Gates County 62-49, then beating No. 3 Riverside 57-41 before storming past No. 1 Northampton-West 64-55 to win a sectional title.

Southside began its playoff run by blowing by wild card Ocracoke 62-49, then beating No. 2 North Edgecombe 61-54, before it topped Ayden-Grifton in the sectional championship game.

Wednesday night’s battle will be a classic matchup between two teams with conflicting styles. The Cougars, powered by their height, will try to slow the game down, while the guard-heavy Seahawks want to turn the game into a track meet. Whichever team controls the tempo will likely move on to play Saturday against the winner of the Southwest Onslow-South Robeson matchup.

“We have to really take advantage of our speed … That’s what we have to do,” Lake said. “By the end of the game you will be able to say either we ran them or they slowed us up. Whichever one wins that battle will likely win the game.”

The Seahawks will rely on their star junior point guard Hyman to make big plays, but the team will also need a great effort from its peripheral players if it wants to move on.

“That’s the thing that most people don’t give enough credit to. Katisha is the big star, but to make the big star work you have to have the supporting cast,” Lake said. “They are the ones that do all the little things like setting the picks, getting the rebounds and making the right passes and that’s what our team is really good at. We have one really good ballplayer, but we have a lot of really good role players.”

The Seahawks have had to overcome a host of teams with all different styles to get to this point in the season and Lake said that Southside has been able to do that because of its passion.

“The biggest thing that got us here is our heart,” Lake said. “Our girls just don’t understand quit or lose. We have been down by a lot of points in games before and they just keep plugging away. They think when they are on the court and they make adjustments; they are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”