Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Week: South Side’s Sydney Payne

Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 10:25 PM

Sydney Payne

School: South Side

Class: Junior

The last time South Side won a playoff game, Sydney Payne was dribbling on a bib and wreaking havoc in her crib.

She is still dribbling and wreaking havoc, but a high school basketball court now is her playpen.

Payne was at her best Friday, when she led South Side past Riverview in a Class 2A first round playoff game for the Rams first postseason win since 2004.

The junior guard is South Side’s leading scorer averaging more than 12 points, but she went off for a season-high 24 points in the 52-41 triumph over the Raiders.

“Certainly our playoff game against Riverview was a great time for Sydney to have her season best scoring night,” said Debby Wilson, South Side assistant coach and wife of head coach Dave Wilson.

“We try to push the ball up the floor when we can, and Syd is often scoring on the fast break. She also has developed a good outside shot, and her quick first step enables her to get to the hoop pretty well on the drive.”

On Friday, the Rams and Raiders were tied 20-20 at halftime, but South Side outscored Riverview 16-7 in a pivotal third quarter.

“I’d say one of the keys in the third period against Riverview was switching up defenses a bit,” Wilson said. “We mixed up a few different zones and a half-court trap. I think our kids also were a bit more relaxed, and we focused on executing our offenses a little more than we did in the first half.”

Payne and the Rams began the week with a 52-45 loss to Moon to end the regular season. Wilson said the defeat was a nice bounce-back game for the team after a 34-point loss to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart four days earlier.

“We had spent a lot of time talking about effort in games and practices and the importance of giving 100 percent all of the time,” Wilson said. “I think the whole team really picked it up after the OLSH game. Our performance at Moon reflected that. We were pleased with that effort, especially given that they are a 5A school. “

Wilson gives Payne a lot of credit for her hard work before the school year began that has led to her success this season.

“We have quite a few girls that have shown great commitment over the summer months,” Wilson said. “Syd was one who really took advantage of that time and specifically spent time working on her shot. She has always been very quick defensively and anticipates extremely well. Her ball handling has improved quite a bit as well.”

South Side advances to the quarterfinals for the first time in 15 years as they battle Laurel on Thursday. The Spartans swept the Rams in a pair of Section 1-2A games by 3 and 28 points this season.

“Winning a playoff game was awesome for these kids,” Wilson said. “Our seniors, Jess Barber, Alexis Chiccarello and Rachael Pieto have been great examples of what can happen by putting in time during the off season. By getting a playoff victory, the kid’s kind of feel like they’ve taken the next step which will hopefully lead to more.”

Honorable mention

Caroline Gibson, Laurel

Gibson led No. 3-seed Laurel to an impressive first-round win over Chartiers-Houston. She scored 25 points to lead Laurel into the Class 2A quarterfinals with a 63-16 rout of the Bucs.

Ashley Norling, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Sometimes, even the top players can have a bad shooting night. Norling kept plugging away in a first-round game against Burgettstown and showed her complete game in the Chargers win. Norling distributed the ball, played great defense, hit the boards strong on both ends and, oh by the way, scored a game-high 18 points in a 50-30 win.

Gigi Mele-Madigan, Serra Catholic

Sto-Rox scored only five first-quarter points against Serra Catholic in a first-round Class 2A contest. So while the Eagles relied on a strong defense most of the game, senior Gigi Mele-Madigan picked up the slack of a struggling offense as she led all scorers with 19 points in the Eagles’ 59-29 win over the Vikings.

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