Southside rides 17-1 run to third place in district
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It’s rare for a team to invade the District 29-4A throne room reserved for Floresville, Harlandale and Medina Valley, but that’s what Southside has accomplished so far this season.
The Cardinals (15-13, 7-4) took over third place in 29-4A with a 62-44 victory over Uvalde (8-16, 2-9) last Saturday evening at Southside. The win, coupled with Harlandale’s 56-53 loss to Floresville earlier in the day, broke a tie that the Cardinals had forged with a 68-43 over Memorial (5-22, 1-9) Jan. 21.
“We just needed to take care of business,” Southside senior Desiree Rodriguez said. “For the most part, we’ve been doing it this year.”
Seventh-place Uvalde defeated Southside Dec. 30 and was within 41-39 with 2:14 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals forced 11 turnovers and scored the last seven points in the quarter. That spurt grew into a game-deciding 17-1 run.
Southside had a double-digit advantage over the Coyotes in the turnover department.
“That’s what really helps us out,” said Southside senior Sabrina Guzman, who scored six of her 14 points in the second quarter. “Defense is king.”
Although missed close-range shots held the Cardinals back in the first half, they were generating turnovers and getting out in transition from the game’s early stages.
Their lead reached 12-7 in the first quarter when Guzman took a defensive rebound the length of the court for a layup.
Uvalde closed to 13-12 on a three-point basket from Ally Ortiz (15 points) just 11 seconds into the second quarter. The Coyotes tied the score three times in the quarter. Ortiz produced 10 points and guard Kim Chapa (13 points) added another six.
After the first two minutes, Southside lost the lead only briefly. Ortiz made another three-pointer, followed by a fast-break layup. A driving basket from Chapa gave Uvalde a 25-21 edge with 2:19 until halftime.
“We made a few adjustments in the second half,” Southside coach Dolores Sulaica said. “We were getting pressure on their main scorers and just being disciplined defensively.”
Sendejo put back a rebound and Guzman nailed two free throws that tied the score at 25-25. Substitute post Stephanie Quintero responded to a Coyotes score with another rebound basket and a free throw, which put Southside ahead 28-27.
“It’s like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Guzman said of production from Southside’s front court. “When they step up, they do a really good job. It’s really good when they do their job.”
Rodriguez added, “Before, we were just getting scoring from one or two players. Now everybody on the team has been contributing.”
Guzman knocked down two more free throws and made the halftime score 30-27 in Southside’s favor.
“Once I saw we were struggling, I knew I had to step up,” Guzman said. “As point guard, that was something I needed to do to help my team.”
Rodriguez followed her own missed shot to score a rebound basket that started the Cardinals’ big run. She also contributed a jumper from the left corner off an assist from Guzman with 40.8 seconds left in the third quarter. A free throw from sophomore wing Mayra Sendejo (15 points) increased the lead to 48-39 as the quarter ended.
Kimberly Robles came off the bench to claim two offensive rebounds that extended a possession. Robles scored on the second and increased the Cardinals’ lead to 52-39 with 6:15 remaining.
“She’s getting a lot more comfortable,” Sulaica said. “When you put her in, she’s not shy.”
Quintero, Robles and Kat Mancha each made key contributions up front for the perimeter-oriented Cardinals.
“The subs don’t have to score a ton of points,” Sulaica said, “as long as they score quality points or get defensive stops. At the beginning of the year, I think my seniors felt like they had to do it all.”
Sendejo netted four consecutive points and Mancha scored on an offensive rebound for a 58-40 lead with 3:11 left.
“They came ready to go,” Sulaica said of her team. “We started off a little slow but, luckily, we put it all together.
“They’re a great group. They get along on and off the court. They’re very unselfish.”
Southside will play at Medina Valley Tuesday and play host to Kennedy Friday (both 6:30 p.m.). They’ll finish the season Feb. 4 at Harlandale, whom the Cardinals defeated in the first round of district play.
“We still have three tough games left,” Sulaica cautioned.
In addition to the four teams listed above, Kennedy and McCollum both have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. After Saturday, though, it appears more and more that the Cardinals are on the fast track to the postseason in one of the area’s most competitive districts.
Having won five of its last six games, Southside is even winning over the skeptics.
“I expected a lot, because of our offseason program. Everyone participated in the whole program,” Rodriguez said. “Last year, we were so close to the playoffs. I thought (the season) would go well for us.”