The South Iron Panthers Boys Varsity Basketball team made some more history over the Holiday break as they took down their third straight Bob Sechrest Jr. Annual Christmas Tournament. In fact, after the conclusion of the 66th tourney, the Panthers are now tied for the most first place championships in state history.
As the top seed, the first round didn’t figure to be much of a challenge for the Panthers and that was certainly the case as they took on the 16 seed Perryville Pirates. This one was over as quickly as it started, as South Iron ran the table in the first with a 31-4 advantage, and then kept the line moving in the second with a 30-13 frame. That gave them a whopping 61-17 lead at the break and the rest of the story pretty much wrote itself.
The Panthers went into cruise control in the third, going up 84-23 before taking their foot off the gas and resting their starters to close out the 90-35 win. Drenin Dinkins was the hammer once again as he led all scorers with 28 points, and also collected three assists, four rebounds and made six of ten from beyond the arc. DJ Prater and Jermartez Burse each had 19 and Prater racked up a double-double as he led the team with 10 boards.
Dinkins made some history in this one as well as he collected his 2,000th point, showing just how incredible he’s been in his High School career. Speaking to his milestone and the team’s tournament success he humbly stated, “It felt special and will forever hold a special place in my basketball career! I am very blessed to be able to be a part of this special accomplishment with great individuals!”
In the second round of the tournament South Iron took on a very tough Steelville team, and this game was much closer. The Panthers had the advantage through the first half with 21-17 and 21-15 quarters, but the game was much tighter than they’re usually accustomed to. They added an extra four points to their lead in the third with a 23-19 frame, and then used that cushion to overcome a 17-16 Steelvlille fourth to bring home the 81-68 win.
Prater paced the offense in this one with 24 points, but Dinkins was just behind him with 23. The two also led the team in rebounds with nine and seven, respectively. Champ McMurry and Burse each had a pair of threes giving the former 18 points and the latter a ten-spot.
McMurry was beaming with pride, saying, “It’s feels amazing! There were a lot of really good teams in the tournament and to come out on top is awesome. I definitely feel like our team took a really big step this week!”
That win vaulted South Iron into the semifinals, where they squared off with a challenging North County team. It was tight from the jump and the Panthers really had to work for it after a dominant first half. They went up early with a 24-12 first quarter and then a 19-12 frame to close out the half, but the Raiders came charging back in the second. They won both eight-minute quarters with 21-16 and 23-12 showings, but the Panthers were big at the line late and held off the second half surge to secure the 71-68 victory.
Head Coach Dusty Dinkins commented on his team’s efforts and their poise at the line in the game that sent them to the Christmas Tournament Finals for the fourth straight year, saying, “It was a very physical game! We did a great job defensively and offensively in the first half. In the second half we committed too many turnovers against their pressure, but kept our composure and pulled out a gritty win! We were 8-8 from the FT line in the 4th quarter.”
Dinkins was the story once again in this one as he led in every notable category, going off for 33 points with four three-pointers, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. He was also a perfect 13-of-13 from the charity stripe, which was largely why the Panthers were able to hold onto the narrow victory.
The final challenge of the tournament came in the form of the surging Festus Tigers, but South Iron was ready to battle. The Panthers kept a slim advantage in the tightest of first quarters to go ahead 16-15 and then used the second frame to extend their lead as they drained 22 points to Festus’ 14. That gave them a 38-29 lead heading into the half and all the momentum they would need to slam the door on their third consecutive Christmas Tournament highlight show.
The Tigers fought hard after the break, but the Panthers were able to keep pace as the two squads were knotted at 18. In the quarter to end all quarters South Iron hit their free throws and clung to their lead to take down the overall victory with a 78-66 win.
Coach Dinkins spoke to the resilience of his boys, saying, “We were able to battle through fatigue from the night before and four games in five days. We were 16-of-18 from the FT line in the 4th quarter, which was huge in securing the win.”
Dinkins and Prater were huge again with 27 and 24 points, respectively, and they each had seven boards to share the team lead. They were also a combined 19-of-21 from the charity stripe, which was beyond instrumental in sealing the victory and bringing home the top-tier hardware.
Prater truly felt the team chemistry as he elatedly commented with, “I believe we came together trying to play for each other and have the same mindset in trying to win games!”
Coach Dinkins gushed about his boys and their overall achievement, spouting, “For the tournament championship run we had eight players make huge impacts to enable us to be victorious. Our Seniors did a wonderful job of leading our team in the semis and finals! Very proud of our guys and the strength they portrayed in the pressure moments!”
It was impressive, but feels like just another day at the office for these perpetually dominant 11-2 Panthers. They look to keep the wins coming as they face off against Bunker next.