West Side School
NBA legend Bill Russell once famously said, “Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” Nowhere was that more on display than in the West Side senior girls’ unforgiving 2020 postseason run.
The Lady Eagles clawed and scrapped their way to seven-straight tournament wins, including 1A-5 District and 1A-3 Regional Championships. With seemingly every game a fight to the finish, the West Side senior girls stood on a foundation of faith, focus and family.
“They showed a lot of heart, fighting through tough games,” head coach Megan Berry said. “That’s what being a team is all about, and I think it showed this postseason.” With seniors Madison Bailey and Alex Southerland, juniors Haley Gentry and Kamryn Sutterfield and sophomore Ashtyn Knapp, West Side sported a potent starting five, while receiving key minutes from sophomores McKenna Bittle, Sarah Carlton and Kortnee Finch.“I am proud about how unselfish this group is,” Berry said. “When a teammate was having an off night, someone else would step up.”
Buoyed by the return of Gentry and Sutterfield from injury, the Lady Eagles earned the No. 2 seed at the 1A-5 District Tournament and opened play in the semifinal round with a 65-49 win over Mount Vernon-Enola. West Side followed up with a victory over Rural Special to capture the district tournament title.After racing past Augusta in the opening round of regionals, West Side faced off against Concord in the semifinals. In a back-and-forth heart-stopper, clutch free throws from Bailey and Gentry sealed the Lady Eagles’ 58-57 overtime victory over their longtime rivals.The regional tournament title game was a battle of spouses as Berry faced off against her husband Trey’s Rural Special Lady Rebels for the second time this postseason. The game was another classic, as West Side had to hold off a late Rebel charge for a 49-44 win and the school’s first regional tournament title in 17 years.
In their first state tournament appearance in a decade, the Lady Eagles opened play at Lake Hamilton against a hard-nosed Mammoth Spring team that had entered its own regional as the top seed. Despite trailing most of the game, the Lady Eagles surged late behind five straight free throws by Sutterfield for a 54-49 victory. Knapp led the way with 17 points.The state quarterfinals pitted the senior girls against Emerson, one of Class 1A’s best squads. Again, the Lady Eagles were behind much of the game, including a 36-28 deficit at halftime.West Side rallied behind Southerland’s inside scoring, and the senior post dropped in 16 of her game-high 24 points in the second half. The Lady Eagles’ grit was on full display as they ground out a 65-62 win to earn a trip to the state’s Final Four.West Side faced off with consensus No. 1 team Viola in the state semifinals. The Lady Eagles seemed to relish the role of underdog, as 3-pointers by Carlton and Gentry paced them to a halftime lead.After Viola took a fourth-quarter advantage, the Lady Eagles again showed their mental toughness, racing back to within 2 points in the final minutes. Though Viola would come away with a 60-56 win and the trip to the state finals, it was the Lady Longhorns’ toughest test of the postseason.
Rounding out West Side’s tournament squad were sophomores Emma Heier, Emma Johnson and Megan Miller, and freshmen Jordyn Ballard, Shawna Carlton, Hope Lockley and Alyssa Smith.The team was managed by McKenna Knapp and Kaleb Tangen. Berry was assisted in coaching by Robert Lanier and boys coach/athletic director Keith Brown.West Side finished the season with a record of 32-9.