The South girls spend 75 percent of their practices on defense. Even this late in the season, they’re working on core strengthening exercises and agility drills, all designed to improve their footwork and fast-twitch muscles, which then helps their defense.
South, the defending Class 6A champion, took a step toward its goal of winning another title by defeating visiting North 65-28 on Wednesday night in the sub-state semifinal. South will play host to Dodge City at 7 Friday night, with a berth in the 6A tournament on the line.
The Titans have won 19 straight games and 42 of their last 43. In their last six games, they’ve given up 110 points, an average of 18.3.
“We try to keep teams under 20,” South coach Antwain Scales said. “Last year the goal was 30. Defensive teams win championships. We try to buy into the defensive concept. The offense will come.”
South has the middle of the floor locked down with sophomore center Kendrian Elliott, an All-Metro selection as a freshman.
At 6-foot-3, she’s not only got height but she’s got the strength to make the move to the basket, to rebound and to shut down opposing players. She finished with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds.
The rest of the starters, sophomore Ericka Mattingly, junior Kirea Rogers and seniors Madison Northcutt and Eledria Franklin, use a combination of quickness and anticipation to rack up steals.
Rogers and Elliott each had four steals against North, while Mattingly had three and junior Patriece Dodson came off the bench to get five.
Eight South players had at least one steal.
“We definitely work on (our footwork),” Mattingly said. “With the ladder, the agility dots, our footwork makes us get there. We work the passing lanes, too. You have to play the passing lanes. We pay more attention to where the ball is going to go, thinking ahead.”
Rogers’ defense appears to be the most effortless as she reads the passes, sticks her hand out to deflect the ball to a teammate.
“She’s just a long, rangy kid. We try to teach her to stay wide and stay long,” Scales said. “ She’s been great for us.”
After Franklin opened the game with a three-pointer, Rogers forced a jump ball, then deflected a North pass out of bounds.
South’s next basket came after a Mattingly steal. She passed to Northcutt, who scored inside, was fouled and hit the free throw.
Mattingly had another steal and scored on a fastbreak. Just five minutes in, South had a 14-0 lead.
South sticks mainly with its starting five, but Dodson’s defense has been a welcome spark off the bench.
“I play on White in the defensive practice, so I’m used to going after the (starters) on our team,” she said. “It helps me in games. I really just anticipate where the girls is going to throw it to the next player. I try to see her eyes where she’s going with it.”
South junior Patriece Dodson
South sophomore Ericka Mattingly
South coach Antwain Scales