Benson tallies 16 to lead Southside to 56-53 win over Etowah

Southside’s Darwin Clark defends Etowah’s Trey Brown during Tuesday’s high school basketball game in Southside. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)


SOUTHSIDE — After Southside’s 56-53 boys high school basketball victory Tuesday night over Etowah, Panther coach Chad Holderfield couldn’t contain his excitement. Not just over the win, but because of the atmosphere.

“This is what this rivalry should be about,” he said. “The community (being) behind both teams, fans filling the stands (and) an absolute war between the teams. It was the same way at their place.”

A packed house saw Southside (12-2, 4-1) hold off their Class 5A, Area 13 rival, though it never was a sure thing until the final buzzer. Etowah’s Trey Brown had a 3-pointer roll off the rim just before the final buzzer.

The Blue Devils (14-2, 2-1) trailed for most of the first half but battled back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Panthers managed to regain the lead and hold it with much effort.

“We talked about it pregame, that it would come down to toughness,” Holderfield said. “I felt our kids showed a level of physical and mental toughness that we are going to need to have. If we can show that (level of toughness) then we will be a good team.”

Southside led 30-23 at halftime, and extended it to 34-23 early in the third after a 3-pointer by Drew Mullinax. 

Etowah managed to find an offensive groove after that, going on an 18-6 run, capped by a basket by Jordan Powell, to go up 41-40 late in the quarter. 

It was the Blue Devils’ first lead since the opening quarter.

The Panthers regrouped to go up 44-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

The lead changed hands several times in the final eight minutes. A pair of free throws by Mullinax put Southside up 51-49 late in the game, and it would be the last time the advantage was exchanged. Saige Benson, who led all players with 16 points, scored to give the Panthers a 53-49 edge with 1:47 to go. Etowah hung in, however, getting to within 54-52. Jalin Williams made one free throw with 15 seconds left to cut it to 54-53, but he missed the second one and Southside corralled the rebound. Mullinax was fouled and hit both shots, and then Brown’s shot went errant to secure the Panthers’ win.

“I thought we did a really good job defensively,” Holderfield said. “Trey Brown is such a good player, and to hold him to four points is really good.”

To start the game, the Blue Devils raced out to a 9-3 lead, with Courtland Harris nailing a pair of 3s, but Southside quickly countered. A 16-0 run that carried over into the second quarter gave the Panthers a 19-9 edge. Etowah began to chip away at the deficit, though, and cut it to a seven-point Panther lead at the break, setting the stage for the back-and-forth second half.

Austin Abernathy and Darwin Clark each had eight points for Southside.

Harris paced Etowah with 14 points. Williams had nine points.