Antwain Scales isn’t exactly a cuddly, smile-all-the-time kind of girls basketball coach. He’s intense. He’s animated. He has no problem telling his players exactly what they need to do — or what not to do.
Even as he walked down the line of players and coaches standing in front of South’s bench after the Titans’ 38-32 win over Heights Tuesday night, he didn’t crack a smile.
When he was in the hallway, though, away from fans and the court, his smile didn’t leave his face.
Consider it deserved.
Heights was Class 6A’s top-ranked team, the two-time defending 6A champ, owner of a 56-game winning streak. South’s win was sweet.
“Big, big for our program,” said Scales, whose team is 7-1 and on a six-game winning streak. “ You have the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the state and all I ask for them is to believe. It’s a big win for the South High program, for the kids, the coaching staff as a whole. It still hasn’t sunk in that we pulled it off.”
For Heights, the loss was disappointing but not because of the win streak, coach Kip Pulliam said
“We haven’t talked about the streak, ever,” said Pulliam, whose team is 6-1. “That’s more of a learning experience. Some of them haven’t lost in a long time, and now they have to learn from a loss instead of learning from wins.”
Both teams struggled offensively. South was 11 of 33 shooting, while Heights was 10 of 47, including 2 of 18 from three-point range. Heights also was 10 of 21 from the free-throw line.
Heights only committed 10 turnovers and forced 25, but the Falcons scored a measly nine points off those turnovers.
“We couldn’t get a shot to fall,” Pulliam said. “We had a lot of good looks. They were challenging us. They played hard and made us earn everything we had.”
Heights seniors Katie Palmer, who had three blocked shots, and Odyssey Trussell each had nine points. Jharian Bowen finished with six points and six steals.
After South took an 18-14 lead in the first two minutes of the third period, Heights answered with a 9-0 run in which Palmer drove inside for a layup and Bowen scored six points, including a three-pointer.
“We made one little run,” Pulliam said. “I thought we might get it going.”
South responded, getting a basket inside by Madison Northcutt and then a steal by Kirea Rogers, who scored on a fastbreak layup. Kendrian Elliott gave South the lead with 45 seconds to go in the period when the Titans beat Heights’ vaunted press, scoring on an easy look inside.
The trio of Rogers, Elliot and Northcutt scored all of South’s points until the final 1:02 when Eledria Franklin and Ericka Mattingly each made two free throws.
Rogers, Elliott and Northcutt were also the key to altering Heights’ shots and rebounding. South outrebounded Heights 42-25.
Elliott had a game-high 13 points and nine rebounds, while Northcutt had 10 points, 12 rebounds and Rogers had 11 points, 10 rebounds, plus four steals and three blocked shots.
The Titans’ defense held Heights to 1-of-11 shooting from the field in the final period.
“We broke down their defense, and we passed well and played defense well,” Northcutt said.
“If we hold teams under 40 (points), we are going to be successful,” he said. “We buy into playing a defensive strategy. I knew turnovers would happen, adversity would happen. I wanted them to keep their poise and make sure it didn’t result in a layup.”