Seahawks rebuilding, finding their stride

Published 11:15 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Angelica Tisdale is one of two seniors on a Southside roster consisting of eight freshmen.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Angelica Tisdale is one of two seniors on a Southside roster consisting of eight freshmen.

CHOCOWINITY — For those who watched the Southside girls’ basketball team last season, the 2014-2015 version may seem almost unrecognizable. It’s the same high-octane, fast break, transition offense head coach Bill Lake has run for years, a system that landed the Seahawks in the state championship game just three years ago. But this season, there’s an entirely different collection of faces running it.

Of the 12 players on Southside’s roster, only three have played at the varsity level, Angelica Tisdale being the only returning starter. Freshmen like Symone Ruffin and Michaela Dixon have been thrust into a starting role in a competitive Coastal Plains Conference, but that’s not by accident. The team is young, there’s no working around that, and so Lake is taking this season one game, one practice at a time with an eye on the future of the program, not necessarily the season.

“The returners are really doing a good job helping the young kids learn to play at this level,” Lake said. “A lot of my players, they have a lot of growing to do, physically. We’re just going day by day, one game at a time. If we have a practice and get them to learn one new thing, we’ve had a good practice.”

In terms learning the offense, it’s been a rocky start for a young team. Southside scored just 57 points in its first two games, both losses to sub-.500 teams, and lost by more than 40 to Riverside, twice in one week. If anything, defense has been the one constant, athletic enough to keep even he speediest guards a bay, Riverside being the one exception.

But after posting a 0-7 record in out-of-conference play, the youngest team in the Coastal Plains Conference is enjoying its place at the top.

“It started Monday with our first win,” Lake said. “The girls finally broke through and started to believe in themselves. I told them, ‘it’s close and you could win it if you really want to.’ They wanted to.”

Southside defeated Bear Grass, 58-39, on Monday and knocked off Jones Senior, 41-39, on Wednesday. The 58 points scored against Bear Grass was a season high, more than the team scored in the first two games combined. The win against Jones Senior was a come-from-behind, down-to-the-wire kind of victory that, Lake said, proved the team has gained confidence over the last month.

“We’ve got a lot to learn. We’re very young and looked good tonight, but tomorrow night we may not look so good,” he said after the game.

The numbers were not in Southside’s favor against the Trojans, who were significantly taller and came stocked with one of the top shooters in the conference, Latrina Gatling. Small forward Franlena Brimage is also considered one of the best talents in the CPC, averaging nearly 22 points and nearly 15 rebounds per game.

Despite being outrebounded, Southside limited turnovers and concentrated on possession, rather than being the first up the court.

“We told the kids the secret isn’t getting down the court fast,” Lake said. “The secret is getting down the court with the ball under control. We’ve been stressing having control of the ball and tonight it showed.”

Down five points heading into the final quarter, the Seahawks stuck to that philosophy and opened on a 9-0 run.  Jones fought back and tied the game with less than 20 seconds remaining, but a nice slip pass from Ruffin found Dixon near the foul line. Dixon hit the shot with four seconds left, sealing the victory for Southside.

It’s no secret the Seahawks time at the top of the conference will come to an end, probably sooner than later. Nevertheless, the two game win streak is a testament to just how far this young team has come in just the last week.

Southside will travel to Lejeune on Friday to face the Devil Pups, who are 6-1 this season.