EMOTIONAL AFFAIR: Southside holds on for first league win

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS TAKING CONTACT: Southside’s Symone Ruffin cuts to the basket, absorbing the contact of Northside’s Jessica Foster.

TAKING CONTACT: Southside’s Symone Ruffin cuts to the basket, absorbing the contact of Northside’s Jessica Foster.

PINETOWN — It’s not always about what takes place on the court — not even when it’s a rivalry game like Northside vs. Southside. Such was the case with Friday’s matchup between the Lady Panthers and Lady Seahawks.

Early Friday morning, Linda Alligood, mother of Northside’s standout senior forward Kendall Alligood, was involved in a fatal accident. Alligood did not play in the game, but, despite the tragedy, her team rallied and gave Southside everything it had.

EMOTION: Northside played Friday’s game with a heavy heart after the tragic passing of Linda Alligood. The Lady Panthers took visiting Southside to the limit, but came up short. It was an effort to be proud of, nonetheless.

The two teams battled back and forth for 32 minutes. It was the Lady Seahawks that emerged with the 60-53 win — their first in 1-A Coastal Plains action. It was a one or two-possession game throughout the fourth quarter before the Lady Seahawks went 6-of-6 at the free-throw line to help lift them to the seven-point win.

Fouling had been a bit of an issue for the Lady Panthers. Southside was in the bonus before the end of the first quarter, which forced Northside to turn down the aggression a bit on defense.

Mariah Stanley hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to push Northside’s early lead to 19-13, but it didn’t last much longer. Danielle Ruffin answered with a trey of her own to spark a quick 8-0 run for the Lady Seahawks, putting them ahead 21-19. They wouldn’t concede that lead for the remainder of the contest.

Just before halftime, Rachel Lang converted on a pair of chances at the charity stripe to bring Northside within three, 30-27.

Just like they did early in the second, the Lady Seahawks stormed out in the third to build on their lead. They got four baskets right at the rim to go up 38-28. The starts to those two quarters were important in a game that didn’t feature too many sizeable runs for either team.

“I told the girls I wanted to play fast,” Southside coach Milton Ruffin said. “I figured our team was a little bit faster than theirs was, so I wanted to come down and get transition layups, which we did.”

The Lady Panthers weren’t down for the count. Lang drew a foul on a layup and made the free throw for a three-point play. Quortasia Clark also took two trips to the line, going 3-of-4, and Destiny Jones dropped a long jumper. Before long, it was a one-point game, with Southside leading 38-37.

That was as close as it would get, though. The Lady Panthers never trailed by more than six until that run of free throws late in the fourth. Southside, however, was able to match them basket-for-basket to keep them at arms length.

“They showed a lot of toughness. They showed a lot of heart, will and desire,” Ruffin said. “The girls wanted it tonight. Northside came out and they played really hard. We’re right there on the same level. We competed. That’s what I think made the difference in the game — we competed the whole time.”

Northside turned the pressure up late in the game. The girls swarmed to the ball, looking to force turnovers that would spark the comeback they needed. Ruffin and the Lady Seahawks didn’t waver. The skill on the court helped break away from Northside’s pressure.

“One thing I knew coming into this game was that I had the best ball handler on the court in Symone Ruffin,” he said. “I tried to get her the ball and go ahead and get it down the court. … The main thing was getting in the half court.”

Northside has three more games in its home stand to bounce back. Southside will hope to build on its two-game win streak at Bear Grass on Jan. 22.