Spartans, Hornets earn showdown for PAC-6 crown
Wednesday night’s PAC-6 Tournament girls’ semifinal was supposed to be all about pre-tournament favorites Southern and Hillside waltzing into Friday’s 6 p.m. championship game.
No. 1 seed Southern and No. 2 Hillside indeed advanced to the finals, but not before being knocked back late and almost eliminated.
The regular-season champion Spartans (18-5) had to dig out of a six-point hole with 1:45 to play to take down No. 5 seed Riverside 47-46 in Wednesday’s opener.
In the nightcap, No. 2 seed Hillside led until Bayley Coleman-Cox’s free throws with 3:50 to play gave No. 3 Jordan (15-10) its first lead. Hillside’s Mylea McKennith found Tykyrah Williams for a layup with 25 seconds left to snap a 45-all tie on the way to Hillside’s 47-45 victory.
Both games were played at Northern High School, which also hosts the boys’ semifinals today at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and the finals on Friday.
In the opener, Riverside (11-15) survived more than two full quarters without sophomore Yakima Clifton, who picked up her third foul 1:02 into the second quarter, sat for five minutes, then got her fourth with 53.1 seconds to go until halftime. She didn’t come back in until 6:12 was left in the game.
The Pirates also lost starter Atlanta Woodall late in the third quarter when she knocked heads with Southern’s Addis Lemons on a Lemons’ foul and was lost to a concussion.
Somehow the Pirates hung around despite Southern running out to a 34-22 lead on a Sydni-Kim Dobson 3-pointer with 2:13 to go in the third. But with freshman point guard Zaria Rogers (eight points, three steals, three assists) and 6-2 sophomore Moné Jones (14 points, 12 rebounds) leading the way, Riverside outscored Southern 18-2 over the next seven minutes and grabbed a 40-36 lead with 3:04 to play on a lay-in by Jones.
After Ariana Tillman pulled Southern to within two with a 3-pointer, Jones hit a layup and was fouled. Jones missed the free throw, but Clifton’s putback set the margin at 46-40 with 1:45 to play.
Southern was on the ropes but got a pair of free throws from Bryanna Staton, a layup by Régene Watson and a steal and layup by Staton — who was fouled on the bucket with 45.2 seconds left. She completed the three-point play to give Southern a 47-46 lead.
The Spartans fouled Riverside’s Meghan Pleasants with 5.8 seconds left, but Pleasants missed both free throws and Tillman hauled in the rebound to close it out for Southern.
“For a while, we started going backwards,” first-year Southern coach Monique Fearrington said. “It was the way we played at the beginning of the year when we had problems. Then we started communicating again — the players started listening to me and doing what I told them to do — and we played great, not good, great defense.”
Jordan comeback falls short of upset
The second game was an almost mirror image of the first, with Hillside grabbing a 13-point lead late in the third quarter but watching as Jordan came back.
The Falcons probably would have pulled out the win if they hadn’t gone cold at the free throw line.
Trailing 41-40 with 3:28 left on a McKennith floater in the lane, Coleman-Cox missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one opportunities. Salita Greene (15 points, 11 rebounds) missed the back end of a one-and-one with 2:12 to play and Jazmyne Norwood missed a pair with 1:35 left and Jordan still just down two, 43-41.
“We played hard and got right there,” Jordan coach Ty Cox wsaid. “It was a one-play game that could’ve gone either way — what can you say?”
Hillside’s Jordyn Smith (11 points, 14 rebounds) cleaned the glass on all four Jordan trips to the line to keep the Falcons at bay. McKennith hit two free throws with 1:20 left for a 45-41 Hillside lead and some breathing room, but Coleman-Cox hit a pair at the line and Norwood got a layup off a Greene assist to tie it with 40.4 seconds left before Williams untied it and won the game.
Hillside coach Ovester Grays admitted he was disappointed with Hillside’s decision making in the second half but said the breakdowns can be corrected in practice.
Hillside has made it to the tournament finals all eight seasons since it’s return to the 4-A ranks and the PAC-6 eight years ago.
“Eight for eight and we’ve won it five times,” Grays said. “We’re just happy to win and advance.”
Southern 47, Riverside 46
RIVERSIDE — Zaria Rogers 8, Yakima Clifton 2, Andrea’Anna Pool 5, Atlanta Woodall 7, Meghan Pleasants 4, Kiara Jacobs 6, Moné Jones 14.
SOUTHERN — Alexis Joyner 4, Sydni-Kim Dobson 15, Bryanna Staton 11, Ariana Tillman 6, Addis Lemons 6, Régene Watson 5.
Riverside 8 5 16 17—46
Southern 12 12 10 13—47
3-point FG—Riverside 1 (Woodall), Southern 3 (Dobson 2, Tillman). Rebounds—Riverside 45 (Jones 12), Southern 36 (Tillman 7, Watson 7). Blocked shots—Riverside 2 (Jones 2), Southern 2 (Tillman, Joyner). Assists—Riverside 12 (Jacobs 3, Pool 3, Rogers 3), Southern 13 (Tillman 4). Steals—Riverside 7 (Rogers 3), Southern 11 (Jacobs 4). Turnovers—Riverside 23 (Rogers 4, Jacobs 4), Southern 12 (Watson 3, Dobson 3).
Records— Riverside 11-15, Southern 18-5.
Hillside 47, Jordan 45
JORDAN — Bayley Coleman-Cox 15, Jazmyne Norwood 7, Millicent Blivin 2, Niara Tolliver 2, Salita Greene 15.
HILLSIDE — Tykyrah Williams 4, Mylea McKennith 15, Justine Lyons 11, Jordyn Smith 11, Daesha Marshall 6.
Jordan 12 8 9 16—45
Hillside 14 17 6 10—47
3-point FG—Jordan 2 (Coleman-Cox 2), Hillside 2 (McKennith, Lyons). Rebounds—Jordan 33 (Greene 11), Hillside 39 (Smith 14). Blocked shots—Jordan 4 (Greene 2, Shaneika Chalmers 2), Hillside 2 (Marshall, Williams). Assists—Jordan 9 (Norwood 3), Hillside 9 (McKennith 3). Steals—Jordan 8 (Greene 4), Hillside 8 (McKennith 4). Turnovers—Jordan 18 (Norwood 7), Hillside 14 (McKennith 5).
Records—Jordan 15-10, Hillside 22-4.
Editor's note: On Thursday, Feb. 21, a correction was made to this story stating that Southern's Bryanna Staton hit two free throws and had the steal and layup with 45.2 seconds left to give Southern its 47-46 lead over Riverside.