Southside struggling to get by without Danielle Ruffin

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, January 3, 2018

CHOCOWINITY — Danielle Ruffin’s name isn’t always all over the score sheet. She’s averaging about three points per game, a few rebounds and a steal or two.

But there’s a lot she does that won’t show up on the final box score. Southside is realizing that more with each game she’s sidelined with an injury. Ruffin — one of three seniors — brings leadership, a calming presence and defensive responsibility to a young Lady Seahawks team. Those are all traits that they could have used in Tuesday’s 55-27 loss to Riverside in their home opener.

“She was missed tonight just because of her experience being out there on the floor,” head coach Milton Ruffin said. “She can handle different situations out there. You can see we missed her a lot.”

Southside kept its head above water for about the first 20 minutes of the game. Laquisha Woolard put home a quick layup to start things off, and Symone Ruffin followed that with a 3-pointer to give the home side a 5-0 lead early on.

Those were the Lady Seahawks’ only two baskets of the first quarter, though. Riverside erupted on a run of 11 unanswered points before Carleigh Findley went 2-for-2 at the free-throw line in the last second of the period.

Sarah Petty notched the first bucket of the second quarter, but Southside went through another dry spell that saw it go almost four minutes without seeing another shot fall. The two remaining seniors — Ruffin and Michaela Dixon — took charge from there. Ruffin drained her second trey of the contest with 1:30 left, and Dixon got a layup on an inbound play to cut the deficit to 21-17 at halftime.

The Lady Knights took over in the second half. They held Southside to just one made field goal while outscoring their hosts, 17-7, to take a 38-24 lead into the final eight minutes.

Shots didn’t fall in the fourth, either. Ruffin and Delaney Ayers combined for three made free throws and that was it.

“We started off slow in the first half, but in the second half we just didn’t compete,” Ruffin said. “Shots weren’t falling. We just didn’t play good ball tonight. We’ve just got to be able to compete with the competition we’re playing. I think we took a backseat to them for no reason.”

Southside was coming off a competitive game against Edenton in South Creek’s Christmas tournament. The Lady Seahawks were on the losing end of a 2-point game, but proved they can hang with a physical squad — even without Danielle Ruffin.

On Tuesday, though, they struggled to run their half-court offense and largely failed to convert what should have been easy opportunities in transition and at the charity stripe.

“It’s frustrating because you know they have the potential to do it. You try to get them in the right frame of mind,” Ruffin said. “Play your game. We got taken out of the game.”

Ruffin did add that it’s a work in progress. That’s to be expected from a team that features 10 underclassmen on its 14-person roster.

The Lady Seahawks have the ability to compete for a top spot in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference. This loss sets them back, but they’ll look to get back on track against rival Northside. That game is slated for Friday in Chocowinity, but is up in the air due to winter weather expected to impact Beaufort County this week.