Southern girls lay claim to PAC-6 basketball lead with win at Hillside
The Southern Spartans took command of the PAC-6 girls basketball standings on the road Saturday night, beating conference powerhouse Hillside 75-65 in front of a raucous crowd at the Hornets gym.
The Hornet boys salvaged part of Hillside Wall of Fame night with a 53-44 victory that was in doubt until the final two minutes.
The Hornet girls were without Coach Ovester Grays, who started a two-game suspension for being ejected from Friday night’s game against Riverside. Assistant coach Rhonda Bullock served as acting head coach, and the Hornets jumped to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter.
That’s nothing new for the Spartans, who seem to play better when they’re behind.
“You know what? Our games have been like that,” Southern coach Monique Fearrington said. “That’s how it’s been working for us. We’ve been down, but we’re a comeback team. I keep telling them, ‘We don’t need to be that comeback team.’ But I believe in them 100 percent, and they went out there and did it.”
Ariana Tillman scored a game-high 22 points for the Spartans (16-5. 10-1 PAC-6), with Alexis Joyner getting 16, Bryanna Staton 14 and Régene Watson 10.
“Every time we go to practice—and everything we do—is toward first place,” Fearrington said. “We work hard, and they make sure they do what they’re supposed to do in practice. They do what I ask them to do.
“All the other games led up to Hillside. We knew they would be a tough one for us, but we did what we do best. We played good defense, and we communicated, and that was the key.”
Defense has always been key for the quick Spartans, and Saturday was no different. Southern forced 23 Hornet turnovers and held Hillside to 38.2 percent shooting from the floor.
The defense really picked up after Hillside point guard Mylea McKennith was whistled for her third foul midway through the first quarter. A 12-2 run over the rest of the first got Southern back in the game, and then a 10-0 spree in the second quarter pushed them to the lead.
“That really was the turning point, right in the first quarter,” Bullock said of McKennith’s departure. “She picked up that third foul, and we had to sit her all the second quarter. She came back for the third quarter but wasn’t playing as aggressively as she normally would be, trying to make sure she didn’t get that fourth foul. Mylea is a leader, and that really hurt our team.”
Hillside (18-4, 8-2) will be without Grays for one more game, and Bullock said the team needs to step up.
“The message (after the game) was, ‘Think about how you want our season to end. What do you want to do,’” Bullock said. “This is one loss, and we still have games left to play. We’ve got to get our mind right and be ready to play Tuesday night. Now that we’ve lost two games, people are going to be coming for us even more than they did before. We’ve got to respond to it and step up to the occasion and do what we’ve got to do.”
The Hillside boys stepped up when it counted. Tied at 42-42 with 2:33 remaining, the Hornets reeled off 11 unanswered points and forced four consecutive Southern turnovers to secure the victory.
Robert “R.J.” Robinson Jr. led Hillside (15-6, 7-3) with 11 points, while Isaiah Maurice scored 10 to lead the Spartans (9-13, 4-7).
Hillside inducted two members into its Wall of Fame on Saturday night, current football coach and past player Antonio King and past all-state girls basketball player Nisha Watson.
Also, past Hornet football star Greg Little announced a $10,000 donation from himself and the NFL Youth Football Fund to the Hillside football program.
Southern 75, Hillside 65
SOUTHERN—Ariana Tillman 22, Alexis Joyner 16, Bryanna Staton 14, Régene Watson 10, Addis Lemons 6, Sydni Dobson 5, Zaysha Tyson 2.
HILLSIDE—Mylea McKennith 16, Tykyrah Williams 12, Justine Lyons 11, Jordyn Smith 11, Daesha Marshall 9, Khara Herring 6.
Southern 14 21 20 20–75
Hillside 15 9 19 22–65
3-point goals—Southern 5 (Staton 3, Tillman 2), Hillside 2 (Williams 1, Lyons 1). Turnovers—Southern 22, Hillside 23. Total fouls—Southern 21, Hillside 23.
Records—Southern 16-5, 10-1 PAC-6 4-A; Hillside 18-4, 8-2.
Hillside 53, Southern 44
SOUTHERN—Isaiah Maurice 10, Javon Riley 9, Amari Hamilton 7, Shamiek Wilson 5, Tyron Cameron 4, Christian Joy 4, Marvin Tillman 2, Jerrick Richmond 2, Vince Phillips 1.
HILLSIDE—Robert Robinson Jr. 11, Malik Evans 8, De’Shon Self 8, Ty’Quon Reid 7, Marius McAllister 6, Korrin Wiggins 5, Trevion Thompson 4, Isaiah Dickens 2, Marcus Bowling 2.
Southern 10 22 6 6—44
Hillside 11 12 16 14–53
3-point goals—Southern 1 (Hamilton 1), Hillside 2 (Robinson 1, McAllister). Total fouls—Southern 24, Hillside 14.
Records—Southern 9-13, 4-7 PAC-6 4-A; Hillside 15-6, 7-3.