South Side won its second consecutive sectional championship Saturday night. Five keys to the Archers victory.
It can’t be understated how massive the last two free throws from South Side’s Lakyn Gulley were. It also can be understated the unbelievable amount of pressure that was on her. Those type of free throws are hard enough just knowing the game is on the line with 2.5 seconds left. But add that it was a one-and-one, so she wasn’t guaranteed two chances to tie it. And it was the first free throw she shot the entire game. She drilled the first and then came back after a timeout to hit the second. Clutch.
2. Responding to adversity
South Side had built a lead of 10 points at halftime and led nearly the entire game. Then with under a minute left, Homestead took its first lead. A lot of teams would crumble to this mounting adversity or try and force things on the next possession. Not these Archers. Instead on the next play, they found a cutting DeJoyah Johnson to take the lead. Then again, after Homestead hit two free throws with 5.1 seconds left to take the lead, the Archers didn’t wilt. Instead hitting two critical free throws to win the game.
3. Offensive rebounding
The dramatic finish was set-up by Homestead’s comeback, but South Side had to build that lead and it did it on the inside. Repeatedly the Archers got offensive rebounds and second chance points to build its lead. If South Side doesn’t clean up on the offensive glass they aren’t likely playing in a regional game next weekend.
4. Inside presence
On par with the offensive rebounding, South Side controlled the paint on both ends of the court. Homestead only had 16 points come from 2-point buckets. It did hit free throws but the comeback largely came from outside the arc because South Side’s height and athleticism inside limited the Spartans. Then on the other side of the ball, all but 18 of South Side’s points were scored on 2-point baskets. That’s a drastic difference and shows where South Side did its damage. It didn’t let Homestead get easy buckets inside and found plenty themselves.
Homestead’s head coach Rod Parker wouldn’t say for the Spartans early struggles were due to nerves. But, his team doesn’t have a single senior who plays (the only one on the roster is out with an injury) and starts two freshmen and two sophomores. South Side on the other hand starts three seniors, and early on the Spartans were struggling to hit shots and had 10 turnovers in the first half. The Homestead players may have had an entire regular season under their belt, but nothing compares to playing in pressure playoff situations.