UP FOR GRABS: Southside falls in closest first-round game in region
Published 5:50 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016
WELDON — A defensive turnaround in the latter stages of the season gave Southside a chance Tuesday evening in its first-round playoff matchup. The No. 29 Seahawks made the long trek to take on fourth-ranked Weldon. They came up short, 63-58, in what was the closest game in the east.
Coach Sean White has stressed time and again to play each quarter like it’s a different game. He emphasizes starting strong at the beginning of the game and coming out of halftime.
The game was tied, 27-27, at halftime, but it didn’t stay like that for long. Southside built a six-point lead pretty quickly in the third, which prompted the homestanding Chargers to call a timeout.
That’s when Weldon started pressing. The Seahawks have worked on their press break throughout the season, but Weldon’s press was a bit different than what they’re used to. That wasn’t the main problem as Southside attempted to pull off the upset.
“We couldn’t handle the press at first. I called a timeout and set up our press break and changed a few things,” White said. “Their press was a little bit different than what we’ve seen. But the second half was more turnovers. Some of them were unforced and (we were) not securing the rebound.”
Weldon ended up outscoring Southside 21-13 in the third period. The turnover problem made things tough on a defense that has experienced such an impressive turnaround as of late. There’s only so much that can be done when the team’s offense paints its defense into a corner.
Turnovers weren’t the only problem. Both Donshae Tatum and Shondrea Roland — Southside’s dominant presence in the paint — got in foul trouble. They each had four fouls going into the fourth quarter. The eight-point deficit heading into the final stretch was manageable, but having to play more careful defense inside hurt the Seahawks.
Even so, Southside led by two possessions with about three minutes to play.
“That’s when the wheels came off,” White said. “Once (Tatum) fouled out, they started attacking inside a little bit more with their big guy. Shondrea didn’t foul out, but he was playing a little more timid. He wasn’t playing as aggressive with four fouls as he normally does.”
The Seahawks were in it right until the end. The Chargers converted on some free throws to hold onto the lead in the waning moments and eventually came out with the win.
“I talked to all my seniors after the game,” White said. “I told them they didn’t have anything to hang their heads about. … We just went out and played the No. 4 seed … You hung with (East Carteret in the conference tournament) and almost beat them. … I think this game mirrored East Carteret a lot.”
Roland led the team with 18 points, including 14 in the second half. Pat Coffey, despite being singled out by Weldon’s defense, netted nine. Tatum, too, scored nine. Tamazja Dixon, Johnny Sullivan and Lawrence Brown all poured in at least seven points.
It came down to foul trouble and free throws, as well as some other aspects of the game. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be proud of in the way Southside came together despite having limited practice time throughout the season.
Eight of the 13 players on the team will graduate this year. There will have to be some retooling, especially after losing all of the team’s top-five scorers.
“We can take a lot from this,” White said. “It’s a learning experience for guys coming up. We’re taking a break now, but we’ll do some stuff in the spring and get together in the summer and do some shooting.”