E.A. Sports Today

‘What a moment’

Journeyman Robinson hits a put-back at the buzzer to lift Southside over Alexandria in area title game; Valley Cubs overcome early turnover trouble to take lead in closing seconds

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Tanner Robinson might not start for the Southside Panthers but he was sure in the right place at the right time for them at the finish Thursday night.

Robinson followed a blocked shot that appeared to spell doom for the Panthers and put in the winning basket with one second remaining Thursday night to give the Panthers a 50-49 win over Alexandria for the Class 5A Area 12 Tournament title.

The Valley Cubs trailed the entire game until Drake Davis’ layup gave them a 49-48 lead with 10 seconds to play.

It looked like that was going to be enough to give the Cubs the win when Kory Cargal blocked Cayden McMichael’s layup off the backboard inside of five seconds. But the rebound came right to Robinson who was trailing the play and he laid it in right before the horn sounded.

“Right spot, right time,” Robinson said. “Got the offensive rebound, turned around, cut it loose and I knew it was money right when it came off the hand.

“I knew we were going to get it. I knew that was going to happen. I was right there, saw it come off, grabbed it, all I had to do was make it. Thank God for I did. Thank God.”

It was the Panthers’ fourth area title in school history and first since 2009. The others were 1971 and 1991. And it was all due to Robinson being Johnny on the spot.

“That’s a kid who has worked his tail off for six years,” Southside coach Chad Holderfield said. “He doesn’t start and some nights he plays more than others, but he’s been incredibly faithful to work his tail off and be a great teammate and wait on his moment and, my gosh, what a moment. What a moment.”

The Valley Cubs were their own worst enemy early in the game. They made 11 turnovers in the first quarter and fell behind 12-2. All of Southside’s points in the quarter came on converted turnovers. Until tournament MVP Brenton Heath hit a 3 at the buzzer, the Cubs had more turnovers than Southside had points.

As it was, the Cubs had only 15 shots and 11 points at halftime. They had 15 turnovers and with Southside successfully slowing the pace, every turnover robbed the Cubs of the limited opportunities they had to score. 

“I don’t know if it was nervous or what, but I’ve never been part of a game where you score two points in a quarter and only have 11 at halftime,” Alexandria coach Will Ginn said. “We just didn’t come out. It was like everybody was expecting somebody else to do something.

“They’re playing a half-court man-to-man defense why do you turn the ball over at all. I don’t know how you have a turnover period. Credit to them, they came out and were the aggressor. They were physical with us and it kind of got in our heads.”

The Cubs tightened up in the second half (15-of-31 shooting, two turnovers) and got it tied for the first time at 42 on Jaylen Henderson’s right corner 3 with 2:23 to play. They tied it again at 44.

Scotty Motes broke the last tie with a 3 from the right corner and Heath hit one of two free throws with 45.6 seconds left to make it 48-44.

Evan Snow’s 3-pointer with 29 seconds left got the Cubs back to 48-47. Davis hit his go-ahead layup after Motes missed two free throws with 17.6 seconds left to set up the final exchange.

“We had to play in the second half, if we didn’t we were going to get blown out,” Ginn said. “We didn’t play great ball the second half, we just played. I’m not questioning my team’s fight. A lot of these kids just haven’t been in this big of a stage and it kind of showed a little bit.”

As the area runner-up, Alexandria will travel to the winner of Friday’s Springville-Moody game, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. Southside will host the Springville-Moody loser.

SOUTHSIDE – Cayden McMichael 1 6-8 9, Brenton Heath 4 5-6 14, Tanner Robinson 1 0-0 2, Gauge NeSmith 2 2-4 7, Scotty Motes 3 2-4 9, Parker Gross 0 0-0 0, Will Shirley 4 1-1 9. Totals 15 16-23 50.
ALEXANDRIA – Drake Davis 4 0-0 9, Evan Snow 3 0-0 9, Antonio Ross 2 0-0 4, T.K. Downie 2 1-4 5, Jaylen Henderson 3 0-2 7, Kory Cargal 3 3-5 9, Cleat Forrest 0 0-0 0, Q McDowell 2 2-2 6. Totals 19 6-13 49.

Southside12111215 –50
Alexandria291622 –49

3-point goals: Southside 4 (McMichael, Heath, NeSmith, Motes); Alexandria 5 (Davis, Snow 3, Henderson). Rebounds: Alexandria 30 (Cargal 8, Ross 11). Fouled out: Downie. Total fouls: Southside 16, Alexandria 22.

ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM: Brenton Heath, Southside (MVP); Scotty Motes, Southside; Cayden McMichael, Southside; Will Shirley, Southside; Drake Davis, Alexandria; Antonio Ross, Alexandria; Camare Hampton, Lincoln.

On the cover: Southside’s Tanner Robinson (10) takes in his moment after hitting the game-winning shot against Alexandria.

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