WARSAW – Trailing by seven at halftime of Saturday's Class 4A North Semistate, the pressure was on South Side to play better in the second half.
Fittingly, the eleventh-ranked Archers turned to their defensive pressure to turn the game around.
The suffocating, pressing defense South Side exhibited in the second half held No. 8 Warsaw to nearly as many turnovers (14) as points (15) in the final two quarters as the Archers advanced to their first state championship in program history with a 47-44 victory over the Tigers.
“This feels great, making history,” senior Arianna Simmons said. “It feels good representing.”
Junior Lakyn Gulley was held scoreless from the field, but hit all four of her free throw attempts in the final 15 seconds to help secure the victory.
A half-court 3-pointer by Warsaw caromed hard off the backboard as time expired.
South Side (24-3) held a one-point lead for over two minutes late in the fourth quarter with neither team scoring. Warsaw had a pair of turnovers in the final 46 seconds as the Archers hounded the Tigers, much like they did over the final 16 minutes.
“The girls knew they had to do something a little bit more because we were down seven and just for us to come back in the game, it was going to be on defense,” South Side coach Juanita Goodwell said. “We were a little light on the pressure when they had the ball initially, so we put up a little more pressure on the ball and forced them to do some things quicker.”
Warsaw (24-2) was not comfortable in the faster-paced second half, continuously forcing bad passes and making questionable decisions. South Side capitalized, taking the lead for good on a Chelsea Rogers 3-pointer with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the Archers a 39-36 advantage.
Rogers hit an earlier three that put the Archers in front late in the third.
“Chelsea's two 3's were huge,” Goodwell said. “She sat most of the game on the bench but she came in, got some minutes and hit two 3-pointers with confidence.”
The defensive pressure hit its apex in the fourth quarter, with Warsaw scoring just eight points, all by junior Nikki Grose. The Tigers did not score for the first 3:43 of the final quarter then was held to just two points over the final 2:37.
“We rushed their offense, which they don't like to do,” Goodwell said.
South Side now advances to take on second-ranked Bedford North Lawrence (27-0) in the state championship, a team that defeated the Archers on Feb. 23 by 24 points.
Tip-off for the Class 4A title game next Saturday at Hulman Center in Terre Haute is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.
SOUTH SIDE 47, WARSAW 44
South Side - 12 10 14 11 - 47
Warsaw - 17 12 7 8 - 44
South Side - Gulley 4, Noel 7, Simmons 10, Clopton 7, Johnson 11, Rogers 6, LaMaster-Stephens 2.
Warsaw - Walker-Crawford 18, Baker 5, Harrison 1, Grose 20.