Southside girls top Glencoe in county tourney semis


Southside’s Baylee Gilchrist drives past Glencoe’s Jessica Rathje during Thursday night’s game. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)


In her 25 years of coaching, Southside’s Kim Nails has seen a lot of teams come and go.

She made it clear Thursday how she felt about her current group of Panthers.

“This is the best 10 girls I’ve ever coached,” she said. “They’re just a great group of girls, win or lose. 

“They’re champions in my book.”

They’ll get the chance to have the trophy to show for it, too, after beating Glencoe 59-52 Thursday night in the semifinals of the Etowah County tournament.

The win advanced Southside to the championship game of the tourney, where they’ll face Hokes Bluff at 6 p.m. tonight at Beck Field House on the campus of Gadsden State Community College.

One reason Nails is so proud of this group is because of the adversity with which it’s had to handle. Since last season, the team has lost six players, mainly because of graduation or transfers. Now, it’s on the cusp of winning the Etowah County championship.

“They’ve pulled together; they’re united,” Nails said.

The Panthers (8-9) had to hold off a pair of second-half runs by Glencoe to get the win.

After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, Glencoe (11-8) pulled within a single point on three separate occasions in the third quarter. Every time it did, though, Southside made either crucial shots or free throws to maintain the lead. Perhaps none was bigger than Lindsey Hindsman’s 3-pointer to put Southside ahead 38-34, and the Panthers went on to score the final five points of the quarter to take a 43-36 advantage into the fourth.

“They did a really good job,” Glencoe coach Yvette Sparks said. “I think probably every time we were thinking about getting over the hump, they’d just knock down another three. They were stroking it tonight — kudos to them.”

Hidsman ended the night with 18 points and made three from long distance.

“She’s been very versatile,” Nails said. “She’s really a guard and I had to move her to a (post) player because of our needs. Sometimes she’ll even have to come in as a point (guard). Lindsey’s just a good kid, works extremely hard and loves the game.”

Glencoe made one more run in the fourth quarter after Southside’s lead grew to 10. A 9-2 run pulled the Yellow Jackets to within 50-47 at the 3:08 mark, but Southside made 9 of 12 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

“In a close game, free throws can certainly win for you,” Nails said. “They certainly were big for us tonight.”

Southside made 17 of 22 free throws on the night, while Glencoe hit 9 of 12.

Southside never trailed and took control in the first quarter. With the game tied at 6, Hunter Ashcraft made a 3-pointer and followed that with a layup. After a free throw by Southside’s Mallory Smith and a layup from Glencoe’s Alaina Hampton, Hindsman gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the opening quarter at 15-8 with a 3-pointer.

A layup by Sally Tinker, who scored a game-high 19 points, pulled Glencoe within 15-10 before the first quarter ended.

It didn’t help the Yellow Jackets that one of their main inside threats — Jessica Rathje — was plagued by foul trouble. She picked up two fouls in the first 2:38 of the game. After sitting out until the 2:37 mark, she picked up her third foul just 19 seconds later. Her fourth foul 27 seconds into the second half sent her back to the bench, and she didn’t return until there was 6:27 to go in the game. She fouled out with just a few seconds remaining, ending the game with six points.

“Somewhere around 98 percent,” Sparks said of how Rathje’s foul trouble altered her gameplan. “That was tremendous not having her in the game because she’s a tremendous force to deal with. To have her in foul trouble and have to keep her on the bench, it was hard. We play better with her on the court.”

Two 3-pointers — one each by Cassie Davis and Hindsman — to go along with a layup by Davis helped Southside outscore Glencoe 8-1 to open the second quarter.

Glencoe couldn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the first half, and three straight layups in the final two minutes by Mallory Smith — who had seven points — gave Southside a 29-18 halftime advantage.

Kaileigh Billingsley scored 11 points for Glencoe, while Jensan Napper came off the bench to score nine points.

Ashcraft had 12 points and five assists for Southside. Baylee Gilchrist went for eight points and Blakely Alfred added 11 rebounds.

Nails hopes her team produces a similar effort against Hokes Bluff tonight.

“They have great shooters and a big post, so they have an inside-out game,” she said of the Eagles. “It will be a tough challenge, but we’re excited for the challenge.”