Southside boys knock off Fort Payne 61-54


Southside’s Brock Love shoots over Fort Payne’s Luke Jennings during Friday night’s game. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times)


SOUTHSIDE — Southside took care of business. Now it needs Boaz to do the same.

The Panthers defeated Fort Payne 61-54 in boys high school basketball Friday to secure a tie at the top of Class 5A, Area 10. Each team stands at 4-2 in area play.

Monday, the Pirates visit Etowah in an area game. If Boaz wins, Southside will claim the area championship. If the Blue Devils win, a coin toss will determine the area title winner.

As for Friday’s win, Saige Benson had a monster game for the Panthers (16-5). He scored 24 points and pulled down 20 rebounds as he and fellow post players Patrick Lister and Hunter Bellew used their size advantage over Fort Payne.

“Ever since Saige got into the program, I’ve really stayed on him and held him accountable,” Southside coach Kevin Troup said. “He’s put on about 15 pounds. He’s worked. He really understands his role scoring around the bucket, playing to his strengths. Twenty-four points and 20 rebounds for a sophomore is unreal.”

The ability for the Panthers to dominate inside was evident from the start. Benson and Bellew accounted for all 11 Southside points in the first quarter. The Wildcats (12-12) led by one point after one quarter, though, when on 3-pointer by Luke Jennings with 2:03 showing on the clock.

Daquon Adams scored on a basket and a 3-pointer to kick off the second quarter and lifted the Fort Payne lead to 17-11. After that, the Panthers had little trouble finding the basket. Benson scored eight points in a 14-4 run to end the quarter and give Southside a 25-21 halftime lead.

“They are really fast, so we tried to control the tempo,” Troup said. “When we had the numbers, we wanted to attack the rim, and when we didn’t we wanted to pull it back out. We didn’t want to settle for jump shots. We wanted shots from four feet and in and get post touches. I was proud of the kids.”

In the third quarter, the Wildcats managed to regain the lead, 29-28, at the 5:05 mark on a layup by Derreck Watkins. The Panthers went on a 10-0 run, though, capped by a three-point play by Drew Mullinax with 2:57 left in the third. Fort Payne managed to keep the deficit from growing, however, trailing 46-37 after three quarters.

The Wildcats made one last push in the fourth. They utilized pressure defense to force turnovers and chip away at the deficit, culminating in a pair of free throws by Dale Jackson with 3:44 remaining. The baskets got Fort Payne within 55-53. From there, Southside controlled the ball and made its free throws while allowing just one more point in the contest, a free throw by Jackson.

The Wildcats missed numerous 3-pointers in the final minutes that could have given them a chance.

Lister and Brock Love each had 10 points for the Panthers.

Jennings paced the Wildcats with 14 points. Jackson contributed 13 points.