It takes a village to raise a banner

Published 4:27 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

Southside coach Bill Lake (center) will need his Seahawks to put forth a quality team effort today if they want to win their NCHSAA 1-A state title matchup with six-time defending champions Bishop McGuinness. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

After putting in a workmen-like effort all season long the Seahawks now have one more business trip to go before they complete their job.
Today, the Southside girls’ basketball team will attempt to make school history against a Bishop McGuinness squad that is looking to make state history when the two teams tip-off inside the Dean E. Smith Center at noon in the NCHSAA 1-A state title game.
For the No. 3 Seahawks (29-3, Four Rivers), a win in today’s game will give them their first-ever state championship banner, but first they must get past a seventh-seeded Villains (26-5, Northwest) team that has collected six straight and can set a North Carolina record by adding a seventh.
With star senior point guard Katisha Hyman surrounded by a host of talented players the Seahawks have both star power and a deep bench and will need their entire roster to be on top of their game if they want to dethrone the Villains.
Simply put, it takes a village to raise a banner.
The power of team play was evident in their 84-75 overtime victory over No. 1 Lakewood in last Saturday’s East Regional finals. While Southside received a tremendous performance from Hyman, the tourney MVP, that alone could not have erased the Seahawks’ 14-point deficit with five minutes to go.
Hyman’s 40-point, five-steal effort spearheaded the rally, but victory would not have been possible without Chante Painter’s game-tying layup at the end of regulation, Deandria Purdue’s eight points and 12 boards and a late team defensive effort that caged the Leopards like an overzealous zookeeper.
“That just reaffirms what a strong group with a big heart they are,” Southside coach Bill Lake said of his players. “This is like the third time they have had huge deficits in the fourth quarter and have been able to pull it out.”
While they have guts aplenty, the Seahawks also have a very basketball-savvy team that knows what it takes to get the job done.
“Their basketball knowledge as an entire group is phenomenal,” Lake said. “So many times something will happen in a game and we will make an adjustment and I don’t have to get up and tell them what to do, they will just see it and adjust.”
In fact, their Peyton Manning-like ability to make the right calls in the heat of battle was critical during the Seahawks stand against Lakewood.
“In the game Saturday in the fourth quarter I pulled them over and I said, ‘You know what the score is. What defense do you want to go to?,’” Lake said. “I let them pick out the press that they wanted to use and the one that they thought would help them get the ball back.”
The players would pick the right one, and it’s their ability to pick the right time to make steals that not only weakens opposing teams but fuels their fastbreak offense. In both their regional victories the Seahawks held the edge in steals, and after topping Southeast Halifax 48-31 and then beating the Leopards 84-75, Southside had out-pickpocketed teams 27-18.
During that two-game span Hyman tallied 11 of the team’s steals but it was a strong effort by athletic wing player Valerie Ruffin that has elevated Southside’s defensive play.
“When you get into tournaments like this it’s usually someone that’s not a big star that steps up and has a good game and makes a difference and I felt like Valerie Ruffin did that in both games,” Lake said.
Bishop McGuinness’ path to Chapel Hill has been equally thrilling as the Villains also legged out an OT victory in the regional semifinals, as they topped Cherokee 51-45.
This season McGuinness doesn’t have the individual stars it has had in the past, but relies greatly on the duo of senior point guard Sammi Goldsmith (10 ppg, 4.2 apg) and 6-1 sophomore forward Cameron Nieters (9.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg).
However, like the Seahawks, Villains coach Brian Robinson felt his team must step up on the defense end if in order for his team to end up on the winning end of the game.
“We’ve done this run off of our team defense, their has not really been one standout player on offense,” Robinson said. “We’ve had to do this from a team-defensive standpoint. We’re not like the teams we have in the past with Megan Buckland (who is now playing for UNC) or somebody like that that can lead us in scoring or on and off the court.”