Jan. 18—ACCIDENT — Southern's confining, relentless defense made Northern look uncomfortable on Tuesday.
Whether it was hedging drivers, corner traps in the 1-3-1 or straight suffocating man-to-man defense, Northern labored to get shot attempts off, and Southern slowly and methodically pulled away.
When the Huskies would finally catch their breath, the Rams made five-player substitutions to maintain their pressure.
Fueled by a 14-1 first-half run and a 10-2 start to the third quarter, No. 1 Southern routed rival Northern, 54-29, at the Igloo Tuesday to stay perfect in the Western Maryland Athletic Conference.
"We got stops and that made our job pretty easy," first-year Southern coach Landon Todd said. "That took the pressure off us on offense, and when you hold a team to 29, I like our chances to score 30 most nights."
Southern, which moved into the top spot in the area poll for the first time this season on Monday after downing Mountain Ridge, 56-29, last week, improved to 11-2 overall and 4-0 in the WestMAC with the victory.
Northern fell to 7-4 and 1-2 in the conference.
The Huskies gave Southern some trouble early with their 3-2 zone, and they pulled to within 10-7 after Abby Nelson sunk a 3-pointer with 2:22 to play in the first quarter.
That's when Southern answered with a 14-1 run. Northern didn't garner its first field goal of the second period until the 4:04 mark — a trey from Lydia Nelson.
Southern led 28-14 at the half and pulled away for good with a 10-2 start to the second half, which included 3-pointers from Carly Wilt and Gabbi Berry.
To make matters worse, when Northern did appear to gain some footing, Southern would bring in five sets of fresh legs off the bench, something it did more than a half-dozen times.
For a team with just a seven-player rotation like Northern, fatigue did play a role.
"It's a great luxury to have," Northern head coach Dave Yoder said of Southern's 10-player rotation. "Top of the line-up to the bottom, I think they're equally as good shooters.
"Defensively, it gives you that opportunity to be super aggressive. If you have a player or two with two fouls, it really doesn't change what you need to do."
Jayden Weaver led the Southern scoring with 16 points, followed by Emelee Parks with 10, Wilt with seven and Berry with seven.
Eight different Rams scored, and they dominated bench points 17-3.
There is, however, no metric for the mental toll it takes on an opponent with tired legs watching a fresh set of five players enter the game.
"We can bring in a new five and switch up defenses. We can bring a new five in and have fresh legs, turn up the pressure, full court if we want to," Todd said. "As an opposing coach, I don't know how you game plan for that."
Abby Nelson paced the Northern offense with 12 points, and Lydia Nelson added seven. Both Nelsons made two 3-pointers apiece.
Northern will look to bounce back with a home matchup with Hancock on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Southern has a stiff road test at Tucker County, ranked No. 5 in the West Virginia Class A coaches poll, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.