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Lake tabbed top coach

Southside coach Bill Lake (center) led the Seahawks to a 29-4 record and a trip to the state championship game en route to being named the Washington Daily News Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year. (WDN)

CHOCOWINITY — Here’s a little known fact about Bill Lake: when he gets lost he drives faster.
No, the Southside girls’ basketball coach does not continue to head in the wrong direction only quicker. He waits until he gets his bearings straight and then speeds up to make up the lost ground.
At least now we know where his team gets it from.
In the third quarter of the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional championship game the Seahawks certainly looked lost. After holding a 34-29 halftime lead, Southside’s compass went haywire as the Leopards leaped out on a 20-6 run to head into the fourth quarter up 49-40.
It got worse. With five minutes left to go Lakewood expanded its lead to
14 and it looked like the Seahawks would have to pack it in, sit tight and send up a smoke signal till help came.
Except, slowly they began to retrace their steps and get back on the right path, and once they did, they floored it. Southside raced back, using every tool it acquired during its season-long journey until a Chante Painter buzzer-beating layup tied the score at 68 and forced overtime.
In the extra session it wasn’t even close. The Seahawks kept their foot on the gas and sped their way to an 84-75 victory and a trip to the Dean E. Smith Center where they would play in the state championship game.
It would not be the first time this Seahawks team overcame a big fourth quarter deficit, but it was by far the most impressive. It was also a direct result of Lake, who would prefer his players learn how to find their own way out of the woods its of instead of handing them a GPS.
It’s with that in mind, that the Washington Daily News has handed Lake his second Washington Daily News Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year honor.
“I looked at the players and said ‘Whatcha gonna do,’” Lake said when talking about the fourth quarter of the Lakewood game. “This group of seniors is really special and it got to the point where I felt like I taught them the game and a lot of it now was just making them get their confidence about what had to be done.
“They knew what they had to do. I didn’t have to tell them. But, I asked them so they would realize this is what we have to do and everybody on the team would be thinking the same way.”
They seamed to be on the same page all season as Southside earned the most wins in single season in school history by going 29-4 and advanced to the NCHSAA 1-A state title game where it would fall to seven-time defending state champs Bishop McGuinness.
How they got there was a direct result of the girls passing one of the toughest pop quizzes a high school basketball team will ever face.
After a furious rally wiped out nearly all of Lakewood’s lead, the Seahawks found themselves down by two with 6.1 seconds left in the game. Southside had forced back-to-back tie ups to regain possession of the ball, and after taking its last timeout, was set to inbound the ball from the far right side of the court, just past the halfcourt line.
Normally, the plan for situations like this is pretty standard: get the ball to star point guard Katisha Hyman, who had scored 40 points in the game, and get out of the way. However, as any coach will tell you, things don’t always go according to plan and when that happens it’s up to the players to think for themselves.
“I drew up a wonderful play but they didn’t run it,” Lake said. “The play that I had drawn up was covered head to toe. The girls looked around and switched a couple of positions right before Valerie (Ruffin) got the ball to toss it in and they ran their play the way they wanted to run it and it worked.”
The Seahawks aced the pass/fail test with flying colors as Painter would get the ball and drive down left side of the court and convert the game-tying layup as the clocked ticked down to zero.
Lake looked on like a proud dad watching a child graduate and called that moment the best of the season.
“They got to the point where they understood how to play basketball,” Lake said. “I’m trying to teach them teamwork and the big lessons like don’t give up, you always stick together, keep your head up and they seemed to grasp those things and applied it themselves. That’s the best you can feel.”