Southern stays patient, tops South River

February 29, 1996|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For South River, the game plan was simple: make baskets to set up the press, use the press to force turnovers, turn turnovers into more baskets. Trouble was, in last night's Class 2A East Region semifinal, the Seahawks couldn't get past Step 1.

The host Southern Bulldogs held South River to 22 percent shooting, breaking open a close game with a 12-2 run over the final 3:25 for a 54-43 win.

"We knew what they were going to do and we came out prepared," said Southern guard Lindsey Lowman, who scored a game-high 18 points. "We wanted this one so bad. We've been looking forward to it, and this is our chance to go to states."

The Bulldogs (9-15) are now one win away from their first trip to the state semifinals since 1989. Tomorrow, they play host to North Caroline, a 64-60 winner over Poly in last night's other semifinal, for the regional championship.

After splitting with South River (8-17) in two regular-season games, Southern used man-to-man defense in the rubber match.

"I told them that it's easier to shoot when no one is on you, and we had to turn up the pressure," said Southern coach Linda Kilpatrick. "There were two keys to this win. We had to get the ball inbounds against their press -- which we didn't do for a little while -- and we had to turn the heat up on defense."

For much of the night, the two went hand in hand. When the Seahawks made baskets, they put on the press and gave Southern's guards fits, forcing 30 turnovers for the game. But the visitors missed 53 of their 68 shots, allowing Southern easy access to its half-court offense.

"We shot extremely poor tonight, especially on the foul line," said South River coach Tom Spavone, whose team made 13 of its 26 foul shots.

"I thought we were very tight. When we got the press going, everything was working for us. But after we made our run, Southern settled down and started playing better."

The Seahawks' biggest run came late in the third quarter. Trailing by seven, they outscored the Bulldogs 9-0 over the next three minutes, taking a 36-34 lead with 2:16 left in the quarter. Jess Marion (13 points) and Adria Lewnes combined to score every point during the spurt.

Southern regained its composure down the stretch. Leading 40-39 early in the fourth, the Bulldogs took advantage of South River's poor shooting and began forcing turnovers, building their lead throughout the final six minutes.

South River -- already playing without a starting guard who was out with the flu -- was further hurt when replacement Katie Wilhelm fouled out with 2:35 to play.

Kilpatrick said her team's late dominance was also a matter of better shot selection. "We started being more aggressive on offense like I was asking them to," she said.

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