Hokes Bluff girls knock off Southside for county title


Southside’s Morgan Harris, left, and Hokes Bluff’s Sydney Ball fight for a rebound during Friday night’s game. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


 

Class 4A, No. 9 Hokes Bluff claimed its third consecutive Etowah County girls high school basketball tournament championship with a 44-36 victory over Southside at Gadsden State Community College on Friday.

The Eagles (17-4) rode a strong third quarter to a 13-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes, and fended off a Panther rally late to take the title.

Hannah Evans, who hit several big shots over the last two quarters, scored 25 points for Hokes Bluff. She was named tournament co-MVP along with teammate Carlie Shields, who scored 10 points in the game.

“It’s great,” Hokes Bluff coach Jason Shields said. “That (winning the county tournament) is one of our goals every year. It’s easy not to be hungry for something you’ve done in the past, and it takes a special group of kids to continue to be hungry for it. You have to keep wanting it just as bad as somebody who hasn’t won it.”

Shields conceded that his team was a bit tired in the fourth quarter, but was happy with their ability to fight through the fatigue and hang on.

“We didn’t go very deep into the bench tonight,” he said. “We stayed with just six people, basically. When they took Carlie away from us in the second half, it took Carlie to sacrifice to get a bucket for somebody else, and that is a good player. Hannah got red-hot. They were giving her shots, and Hannah can shoot.”

“We had a big talk at halftime about how to execute our defense on their offense,” Evans said. “I just hit shots and my teammates helped me get open. We played good as a team.”

The third quarter opened with the Eagles ahead 20-16. Kendall Johnson scored the first four points of the quarter to lead by eight points. The Panthers (8-10) struggled to produce much offense for the early part of the third. 

Baylee Gilchrist hit two free throws at the 4:04 mark to put Southside on the board, but that was when Evans took over. She hit a 3-pointer to balloon the lead to 27-18. After Blakely Alfred hit a jumper with 2:10 remaining in the third to cut it to 27-20, Evans drilled consecutive 3-pointers to give Hokes Bluff its largest lead up to that point, 33-20. The score was 35-22 after three quarters.

Johnson opened the fourth with a basket that extended it to 37-22. Southside refused to give in, however. It scored seven straight points after that to cut it to 37-29. A 3-pointer by Evans pushed the lead back to 40-29, but another 7-0 run, capped by Mallory Smith’s free throw with 23 seconds to go, cut it to 42-36. Evans then scored on the other end and stole a pass on the ensuing possession to seal the win and the tourney crown.

“It feels great; three years in a row,” Evans said. “We’ve worked so hard in practice and we have a great coach who prepares us every single day.”

The Panthers scored the first five points of the game, but Hokes Bluff came back with back-to-back 3-pointers from Evans and Carlie Shields to go up 6-5. Hunter Ashcraft hit a bucket with 9 seconds left in the first to tie it at 9.

The teams traded 3-pointers to open the second quarter, then traded baskets to leave it tied at 14. After a pair of free throws by Southside’s Mallory Smith, Evans drained a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 17-16 edge. It was a lead they never relinquished.

Evans hit a layup with 9 seconds remaining in the half to lift Hokes Bluff to a four-point advantage at the break.

Alfred paced the Panthers with 11 points. Smith and Lindsey Hindsman each scored seven points. Alfred, Hindsman and Ashcraft were named to the All-Tournament team.

Johnson, who also was chosen to the All-Tournament team, had seven points for the Eagles.

Others on the All-Tournament team were Hokes Bluff’s Chelsea Machleit, West End’s Brittany Self, Glencoe’s Sally Tinker and Kaileigh Billingsley, Sardis’ Kacee Mashburn and Selena Tarvin and Gaston’s Destiny Allen.

In the girls junior varsity title game, Southside defeated Glencoe 41-20.