People say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, despite an “insane” amount of success, when it comes to the Panthers Girls Varsity Basketball program out of South Iron, we know exactly what to expect. On Saturday the Lady Panthers took down Bunker and Lesterville to claim their sixth District Championship in a row. The now 25-1, near-perfect Panthers are headed to the Class 1 State Tournament, and this shine on this group of girls has not dulled in the slightest.
The first test for the top-seeded Panthers came against a scrappy Bunker team, but preparation and early execution quickly wiped out any doubt that South Iron would run the table. Head Coach Lawrence Graves saw to that, saying, “Before the game, we emphasized to the girls that from this point on, it is win or go home. We need to bring that mindset to the table each game, and tonight our girls showed that they had it.”
The Panthers jumped out to a blazing 28-6 lead after the first eight minutes and then piled on again in the second quarter with an 18-3 showing. Lights out shooting and suffocating defense saw the girls cruise into the halftime break with an insurmountable 46-9 lead.
Coach Graves touched on the effort with, “Our girls played sensational on both ends of the court. Offensively, this was probably the best shooting performance we’ve had all season. I chalk that up to great ball movement and girls being ready to score on the catch. When you have as many girls that can score as we do, it really makes us hard to guard. ”
The second half was a slightly closer affair, but the ladies of South Iron were already on cruise control. They mopped up the third quarter 19-8 before putting on the finishing touches with a 14-11 frame in the fourth. When the final buzzer sounded the scoreboard lit up with an eye-popping 79-28 result. One down, one to go.
Everyone contributed in this one, but Anna Parker led the way with 24 points and nailed half of her eight attempts from downtown. Maddie Ayers filled up the box score with 15 points, eight assists, six steals and a 6-of-6 performance from the line, while Allecia Cornell had 15 points of her own to go along with a team-high seven steals. As a group, the Panthers were 12-of-23 from downtown, which was good for a preposterous 52%.
Next on the slate were the Bearcats of Lesterville, and the Panthers made short work of them as well. Coach Graves summed up the matchup with some choice words, “Lesterville is a dangerous team. They have Reese Gray that can really hurt you down low, and have others that can shoot the ball. Going into tonight’s game, we expressed the importance of having the right mindset and executing for 32 straight minutes. For us, it always starts on the defensive end. We didn’t want to come into this game lightly and let Lesterville find early success on the scoreboard. I thought our girls did an amazing job of defending. Lesterville did come out and hit a couple big 3’s early, but after some quick adjustments, we were able to really contain them offensively. To win playoff games, you have to be able to put together a strong defensive performance, and tonight we did.”
Did they ever. South Iron went up 17-10 after the first quarter, but then really turned on the jets in the second eight minutes of play. Their 26-4 second quarter was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the Bearcats and led to a 43-10 halftime lead. That lead would only grow over the final 50% of the game, as the Panthers won the battle of the third 12-4 before icing the cake in the fourth with an 8-7 effort. The final score was 63-25 and South Iron found themselves hoisting the District Championship trophy for the sixth time in a s many years.
Commenting on the effort, Coach Graves chipped in with, “We also did a really good job of getting to the rim (and free-throw line). We weren’t shooting great from 3, but our girls did a really good job of moving the basketball and finding opportunities to get the ball in the paint. We showed a lot of poise and patience, and ultimately found a lot of really good shots.”
Ayers was the star in this one, leading all scorers with 19 points and collecting five assists, five rebounds and seven steals. Parker was nipping at her heels with her 14 points, and Enzley Dinkins led the team in rebounding with seven while contributing 13 points. Another strong effort across the board from all the Panthers girls led to another mark in the history books and another piece of hardware in an overflowing trophy case.
The Panthers have been to the final four three times during this six-year run of success and look poised to add to that total in the State Tournament. Chadwick will be their first test tonight at 6pm.
Good luck to the ladies of South Iron!