By Tony Burns
West Side Christian will play in both championship games today at the Warrior Center in the AACS South District Tournament. The Warriors beat Hope’s Garrett Memorial 64-51 in one semifinal on Friday.
The Lady Warriors cruised to a 52-21 win over against Cornerstone, out of Tillar.
Both teams will face Columbia Christian in the finals today, girls at 2 p.m., boys at 3:30 p.m.
West Side’s boys improved to 19-6 with their third win over the Saints. The Warriors led 13-11 after one quarter and 25-21 at the half. Stephfan Tabe’s coast-to-coast drive and two-handed dunk highlighted a 9-2 third quarter spurt. Viraj Vora’s 3-pointer helped extend the lead to 36-26. Another 3-pointer by Vora ignited a 10-0 run as the lead swelled to 46-30.
“In the first half I didn’t think we played team basketball at all. I thought everybody shot it the first time they touched it. I was kind of disappointed,” said West Side coach Randall Miller. “The second half, we did a better job. I was trying to isolate Stephfan a little bit and put him and Viraj on the same side so, one of them was going to be open. We did a little bit better job of that.”
The Warriors carried a 48-32 lead into the fourth and built a 56-34 advantage with five minutes remaining.
The Saints cut the deficit to 12 with 1:35 on the clock before Tucker Williams scored on a backdoor cut for the Warriors.
Tabe and Vora led West Side with 24 and 21, respectively. Zach Scriber added 11.
Jordan Keener scored 26 for the Saints.
After the game, Miller lamented his team’s shot selection but admitted it was, somewhat, understandable considering the Warriors already owned two wins over Garrett Memorial.
“We’d already beaten this team twice. We didn’t look real motivated to me. I don’t like that,” he said.
“We did visit about that at halftime. Bottom line, first half, I thought we played a selfish game. Second half, I thought we did better.”
Columbia Christian made 11 3-pointers in a 76-40 win over Victory Christian in Friday’s other semifinal.
“We’ll have to play much better,” said Miller. “(Columbia) has gotten us twice this year - once by four and once by three here in double overtime.
“So, it’s going to be evenly matched teams. But, they play hard all the time. We have to do that, too, and, share the ball.”
West Side’s girls were never threatened, using a 15-0 run to stretch a 5-3 lead to 20-3 midway in the second.
Senior Olivia Voss had a pair of steals and coast-to-coast drives during the run, which also featured a 3-pointer by Sofia Narciso.
West Side led 31-9 at the half and 40-14 going into the fourth. The Lady Warriors improved to 20-3 on the season.
“I was disappointed in the way we played. I didn’t think we looked particularly focused or energetic,” said Miller.
“It is hard to get up for those games sometimes. We’ve played them twice and we know what’s going to happen. But, the goal was to push it out, play some youngsters, save some legs.
“I thought Olivia Voss was ready. She was one who played a good game. She’s pretty consistent, though.
“You’re always going to get her A+ game. Some girls did a good job defensively. But, all around, we’ll have to play much better.”
Voss led the Lady Warriors with 12 points.
Lauren Land and Abby Sipes scored seven points apiece.
West Side had 10 players score in the game. Raeleigh Dendy scored 11 for Cornerstone.
West Side’s girls own two wins over Columbia Christian - by eight in Magnolia and two at the Warrior Center on a last-second shot.
“We’ll have to play much better (today) to beat Columbia’s girls,” said Miller.
“They’re young and extremely fast and will pressure full court the entire game. We’ll need to play hard and take care of the basketball.”
Columbia Christian beat Garrett Memorial 59-26 in the girls semifinals on Friday.