We = regionals squared

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Southside basketball players and fans celebrate after topping Riverside in the District Round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs on Friday. With the win, the Seahawks advanced to their second straight regional semifinals appearance. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

CHOCOWINITY — Chemistry is an often overlooked aspect of team sports but by putting “We” ahead of “Me” the Southside girls’ basketball team will be making its second straight NCHSAA 1-A East Regional semifinal appearance on Thursday when it takes on Southeast Halifax at 7 p.m. in the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
Throughout the season the Seahawks have faced several clutch situations but have always handle the adversity well and refused to finger point when the outcome of a game wasn’t what they hoped for. By doing that, Southside has racked up a 27-3 record, a share of the Four Rivers Conference regular season championship and will look to add to their list of accomplishments this week in Fayetteville.
“I think this is probably one of the closest knit groups I have ever had,” Southside coach Bill Lake said. “The girls really do get along with one another. They look out for each other. We’ve had a lot of different situations with different people being used in different situations and I think their good chemistry reflects how successful we’ve been.”
Helping foster that strong bond is a starting five that consists of point guard Katisha Hyman, G/F Valerie Ruffin, G/F Chante Painter, power forward Kyajia Mourning and center Deandria Purdue that all accept and perform their respective roles and do their best to ensure a family-like atmosphere.
Leading the way Hyman, as senior floor general that enjoys recording assists as much as she likes producing points. So far, the reigning WDN Female Basketball Player of the Year has excelled at both by leading the Seahawks with 15.7 points per game and 4.6 assists a night.
“The chemistry is real good. We work together and we work as a family,” Hyman said. “We never say no and when we’re in a close game we keep our heads up and try our best.”
Despite her ability her ability to create shots for herself on just about every possession Hyman always searches for the open player first. It’s that kind of unselfishness that keeps the other players on the court happy as well as her coach.
“We emphasize team play and even though Katisha gets a lot of points she’s very good about finding the open man. If you’re open she will generally get you the ball,” Lake said.
Helping fuel the team’s good vibe is the accepted role of leadership by fellow seniors Ruffin and Painter. While Hyman is more of a lead by example type, Ruffin and Painter tend to be more vocal.
“I try to keep the team together. I’m more of a leader off the court, talking-wise,” said Ruffin, who is averaging five points per contest.
For Painter, who is a do-it-all guard/forward that is second on the team in scoring and assists with 11 points and 2.1 helpers per game, it’s important for her to lead on the court and make sure the younger players on the team continue to build on the program’s success.
“I see myself as another leader on the team,” Painter said. “I’m a senior on the team and I have to be a leader for the ones that are uprising and I feel that if I continue doing what I’m supposed to do than they will follow in those footsteps.”
One of those players following the example set by the trio of seniors is Purdue, a junior center whose work in the paint has led to her tallying a team-high 9.7 rebounds a night and 8.5 points per game.
Though Hyman headlines the group and is asked to carry the load as far as scoring goes, Purdue could care less as long as it leads to a win.
“It’s all about teamwork,” Purdue said. “Even for the people on the bench, we all feel like we’re a part of what she does.”
While Purdue’s play down low is a vital part of what makes the Seahawks so good, her role as team joker is equally important.
“She likes to joke with everybody,” said sophomore PF Mourning who is second on the team in rebounding with 7.7 per game. “We laugh a lot around her.”
The basketball season can be a long one and Lake said having someone to keep the mood light is critical.
“It’s very important. You have to have someone that can break the ice when things get real heavy and over-serious,” Lake said. “We had a game where we had to sit around for a while in the locker room waiting because a JV game took a little longer than we thought it would and you need someone to break the ice because you will over-think the game and go in tight. Deandria will always find something to break the ice.”
Southside’s chemistry is strong because its roster is filled with role players that dutifully accept their role and Lake said at this time of the year it’s those players who become the biggest factor.
“The role players are always the ones that will end up making the difference, in my mind,” Lake said. “The later you go on in the tournament the big names do exactly what you expect them to do. They’ll be there. But, if some role player steps up and does a little bit more than what you expect, that’s the one that pushes it over the top.”