'Winner's attitude' not enough for RaidersJanuary 18, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — A basketball season can be a long and grinding endeavour at all levels of competition. And one of the biggest challenges all teams face is keeping their focus — and sometimes their fight — as the games drag on. The Southridge Raiders still have some fight left in them, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the red-hot Gibson Southern Titans, who defeated their hosts 62-43 on Thursday night.
Raiders coach Steve Rust felt like his team gave the Titans a good fight at Memorial Gym, despite what the final score may suggest.
“We wanted to fight, [that was] the word of the night,” he said. “The girls fought, and that was the theme of the game tonight.”
Gibson Southern (18-3, 7-0) stormed ahead to a 7-2 start in the first quarter, thanks to a quick three-pointer from senior forward Tabby Klem and junior forward Meredith Raley. But sophomore guard Kennedy Nalley was able to rally Southridge back with an and-1 and a three-pointer in consecutive possessions to put the Raiders up 8-7. However, the lead was short-lived, as Klem drew a foul and hit both of her free throws to put the Titans back on top. A 9-1 run quickly followed, as Raley scored six more points and sophomore guard Kami Miller connected on a three-pointer as Gibson Southern finished the first quarter with an 18-9 lead.
But the game slowed down a bit in the second quarter. After about three minutes, where both teams went cold on the floor, Miller was finally able to break the gridlock with her second triple of the evening. Freshman forward Myah Montgomery responded in kind with a three of her own for the Raiders, which cut the Titans’ lead to five with 1:06 remaining in the second stanza. Raley hit another three-pointer to reaffirm Gibson Southern’s grip on the lead. Nalley answered with another shot from downtown to finally end the impromptu three-point shootout, but the Titans still carried a 33-24 lead as both teams took to the locker rooms to regroup for the second half.
Miller was able to snatch one away from the Raiders (5-13, 4-3), and took to the open court for a fastbreak layup at the top of the third quarter. Senior guard Mady Neukam came back at the Titans with a drive of her own. The threes kept falling for Gibson Southern, this time courtesy of senior guard Jordyn Graham hitting an open look from behind the arc. Klem rustled up another four points in the third period, while Southridge struggled to get good alleys and looks at the rim. The Titans outscored the Raider 12-9, and led 45-33 going into the fourth frame.
The rainbow drops could not be stopped, as the Titans nailed back-to-back treys to open the fourth quarter. The Raiders kept pushing inside and tried to manufacture buckets, even in the late-going stages of the game, but they could not find that consistent shot to keep up with Gibson Southern. Sophomore guard Monica Steckler and junior forward Grace Sickbert were the only two Raider players to score a field goal in the final quarter. The rest of their 10 points came from the free throw line via Montgomery (5 for 6) and Nuekam (1 for 2). Klem and Miller had seven points each to help Gibson Southern coast to a 62-43 finish for their 13th consecutive win.
Raley and Miller each had 21 points for the Titans, and Klem finished with an additional 16. Montgomery and Nalley both scored 14 points to pace the Raiders.
“We were fighters tonight. We worked our butts off,” said Neukam, who finished with six points in her final home game for Southridge. “They’re a better team than us, we’ll be the first to admit that. But we all went out there with a winner’s attitude and we went as far as we could.”
Rust and the team are focusing ahead, as the Raiders finish out the last bit of their regular-season schedule. While the team would love to win its last couple of games and build some positive momentum heading into sectional, right now the Raiders’ immediate concerns are focused on running their offense more efficiently and improving their team defense for the post-season.
“I told you, ‘keep fighting, we’ll be in good shape’,” Rust said. “There’s some things we have to clean up offensively where we don’t have big stretches where we can’t score. And if we get our boxouts and help-defense taken care of, this team will be ready for the tournament.”
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