Two weeks ago, the Southwood boys basketball team was fighting for a playoff spot.
After a 69-63 win against Byrd in a raucous Cowboy atmosphere, Southwood (15-8, 4-0 District 1-5A) finds themselves all alone in first place for the first time since 2003 according to coach Norman Picou.
“This program is making strides, and this was a big one tonight,” said Picou, who fielded high fives from fans and students. “Entering district play, I told these guys that all 10 of these games were championship games.
“The focus is what’s been the difference for a bunch of young guys maturing. I told them that we have to make runs because you knew Byrd’s going to make them.”
Byrd (20-4, 2-2 District 1-5A), which entered the game still No. 2 in the LHSAA unofficial Class 5A power ratings, lost its second straight game after falling to Captain Shreve on Friday.
Coach Rusty Johnson said he was pleased with his team’s effort Tuesday — something he said didn’t occur in the blowout loss to the Gators — but he has to get his team out of its current funk.
“The main thing that I wanted to see is us playing hard, and we did that,” Johnson said. “But we’re having a bad time right now.
“We’re not practicing like we should … but Southwood deserves all the credit tonight because they outworked us on the boards. This district is very good, so there’s still a long way to go.”
Southwood’s run came first, sprinting to a 15-2 lead in front of a capacity crowd in which police had to turn fans away because of the building’s fire code.
Southwood’s Datterius Hubbard scored six of his team-high 22 points in the run as Southwood led 20-5 after the first quarter.
The lead wouldn’t last as Byrd stormed back with a 21-3 run capped by a thunderous Chad Lott dunk to give the Yellow Jackets a 27-26 edge and the numerous Byrd faithful a boost.
Lotts scored eight of his team-high 19 points in the second quarter, but Southwood regained its composure to take a 35-31 halftime lead.
The second half didn’t feature the wild momentum swings, but instead contained a eight ties and six lead changes.
Byrd erased a six-point Southwood lead with a 9-3 run helped by five of Montrey Thomas’ 15 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter.
But Southwood didn’t crumble as the tight play continued, and junior Terion Bell scored nine of his 18 points during a six-minute span to help keep Southwood afloat 55-55 with five minutes left.
Byrd took its last lead at 57-55 on a Kory Ashley (12 points) bucket before Southwood ended the game on a 14-6 run.
Hubbard scored six straight Cowboy points and a Bell free throw put Southwood up 64-63 with one minute left, and Shakelvin Calhoun scored the last six points to pull away.
“It feels really good, and we’re getting better and better,” Bell said. “Southwood hasn’t been here before, but when coach called a timeout to talk about getting our game back together, we did.
“It’s a lot of hard work in practice, and in close games, we’re not giving up. We keep fighting.”