Jackson South Side has many times this postseason held the lead through most of the second half and not had to play catch up.
In the Class AA semifinals on Friday, the Hawks were forced to play from behind for most of the game. South Side made its move late in the third quarter to beat Howard 67-53 at Murphy Center.
South Side (28-3) advances to the Class AA championship for the first time since 2004 and plays defending champion Christ Presbyterian Academy Saturday at 6 p.m.
A big reason South Side played from behind was Howard’s 6-foot-8 center Brandon Walters, who had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.
“He did a good job defending the basket,” South Side’s Wray Fuller said. “We kept going through ways of trying to defend him and scoring on him.
“We finally got him away from the basket. He was a one-man wrecking crew.”
Three straight layups by South Side’s Malik Hicks in the third quarter seemed to start changing the game.
“We just kept attacking, and I kept trying to get Malik in the game,” said Jaylen Barford, who led South Side with 18 points.
With 5:19 left Walters, picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench. The Hawks went on a 19-3 run with all of the points coming from A.J. Merriweather and Barford.
Merriweather added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The other Howard post player, Xavier Harris, had 18 points and 10 rebounds.