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Southern Fulton boys head back to D5 championship

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For the third straight year, Southern Fulton’s boys basketball team is headed to the District 5 Class 1A championship.

And for the third straight year, the journey to a potential title for the Indians will mean getting through Shanksville.

On Friday night, Southern Fulton escaped a physical contest with Turkeyfoot Valley, pulling away in the third quarter and ensuring a 57-41 victory.

“We just became patient,” SF senior Dylan Gordon said. “We know they like to go up the floor and shoot at will; they’re a team of runs, so if they hit a 3-pointer, they’re going to hit another one. We tried to limit that.”

The Indians (19-4) advance to take on the Shanksville Vikings (23-1), who were a 71-46 victor over Shade. As for Turkeyfoot (18-6), the season ends here, but regardless of the loss, it was a pretty impressive turnaround. Under first-year head coach Eric Swank, the Rams went from an 8-14 squad to a district semifinalist.

The demise for the Rams came through Southern Fulton’s physicality and defense.

Coming into the game, Turkeyfoot was averaging more than 70 points per game, but Southern Fulton managed to hold the Rams to their second-lowest point total of the season.

“We knew we had to defend those guards,” Indian coach Kent Hendershot said. “Their guards can really shoot; they made some shots, and we had to defend out there. I thought Carl Potter did an excellent job on their big kid (Adam Diehl), and he was playing under all night. For him to have 11 rebounds and seven points against that showed how hard he worked.”

Swank said, “We don’t really play physical; we’re normally more of an uptempo game, so Southern Fulton sort of got us into that. We like to score in the 70s, 80s or 90s, and Southern Fulton just held us down. They played great drop down defense on us.”

Branden Lynch, who stands at 6-foot-5, also picked the right night to come alive for the Indians. He finished the game with 14 points, but scored the first eight for SF.

“I was mainly focusing on rebounding and boxing out,” Lynch said. “I wasn’t really hesitating on anything, just getting the rebound and putting it back up.”

Gordon said, “He was an animal out there. He kept us in the game, and that’s what we need out of him. If he does that every night, things will come easier for us.”

Next up for the Indians will be Shanksville, a team they lost to earlier this season and a team that beat them in the District 5-1A final two years ago.

But this time, Southern Fulton will be hungry for more.

“I can’t wait to get back again, and get another District 5 championship,” Lynch said.

It’s not going to be easy, though. Southern Fulton and Shanksville have built up quite a strong rivalry over the years, and it’s going to be a tough, physical contest.

“We have to be able to play through that (physicality) because that’s just how Shanksville is,” Gordon said. “From here on out, everyone’s tough, so we’re going to have to deal with it.”

Hendershot said, “We’re like brothers playing each other; we’ve battled for so many years. It’s a good rivalry contest. They have a very nice team, and they showed us what they can do earlier in the year. We know we’re going to have to play a solid game from start to finish and keep ourselves in the game to have a chance to win it.”