The Boys Varsity Basketball team out of South Iron had an admirable showing in the 67th Annual Bob Sechrest Jr. Christmas Tournament, winning three of their four games, but they did stumble a bit and suffered their first loss of the season. Still, it was a valiant effort, and the loaded Panthers are now 12-1 to close out the calendar year.
In the first game of the tourney, the Panthers had to grapple with the DeSoto Dragons. South Iron is the far superior team, but their opponent came out gunning early, as evidenced by a 26-25 first quarter that the Panthers barely won. They righted the ship in the second though and collapsed on the Dragons to take a 46-31 lead at the half.
The third quarter would be another tight affair, but the Annapolis boys won that squeaker as well with a 19-18 frame. Nothing close about the fourth though, as the Panthers dropped 21 on DeSoto and held them to just seven. That effort was good for an 86-56 victory and a trip to the next round of the tournament.
Jermartez Burse was the top scorer with 25 points and made 11 of his 12 free-throw attempts. Gabe Ruble was right behind him with 22 points and Jermarquis Burse had 15, and a team-leading five steals.
In the next round the Panthers would have to face an incredibly tough Potosi squad, who gave them the business right from the jump. The Trojans knocked in 21 points in the first and held South Iron to just 14. The second quarter would favor the Panthers with a 19-17 advantage, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap before halftime.
South Iron would carry that momentum into the third with a 16-12 mark, but they lost the fourth quarter battle 23-20. That made it a 73-69 final and handed the Panthers their first loss of the year.
Head Coach Dusty Dinkins commented on the overall effort saying, “Our intensity and focus was not at a level it needed to be to start the game. Potosi is a very good team and when you get behind early it’s very hard to overcome the slow start. We did show great resolve and battled back in the second half. It was great to see our guys show toughness and determination to get back in a position to possibly pull out the win. However, we couldn’t put enough good possessions in a row in the 4th quarter to get the job done.”
Tez Burse was the heavy hitter again in this one, leading all scorers with 32 points, but its wasn’t quite enough to protect the perfect season. Kolton Dinkins was the only other player in double figures with his 10 points.
The loss sent the Panthers into the consolation bracket and pitted them against a formidable Festus squad. South Iron broke away early with a 15-8 first quarter, but Festus came roaring back with a 14-9 second to make it 24-22 at the half.
This one would be a nail-biter throughout, as the Tigers took the lead in the third with a 13-8 showing, but the Panthers gutted this one out in the fourth. They scored 20 and held Festus to 16, which was exactly one point less than they could have allowed. They walked the razor’s edge and won the game 52-51 in a hard-fought defensive battle on both sides. Tez Burse was the leader once again with 22 points and four steals.
Coach Dinkins again, “Very proud of how we started the game with better intensity and toughness in regards to our defense and rebounding! Festus is a very good team and it required 32 minutes of hard work and determination in order to come away with the win. This group is continuing to show they can overcome adversity and find different ways to be victorious.”
The final contest of the tournament came in the form of the North County Raiders, and this one mirrored the previous day’s game. Another tight first half set up a crazy finish as the Panthers won the first and second quarter battles 15-13 and 13-11, respectively. That’s just a four-point lead for those doing math at home.
South Iron would expand their lead after the break with a 15-10 third-quarter effort, but the Raiders were relentless in the fourth. They snuffed out the Panther offense, allowing just four points, and put up 12 of their own, but South Iron battled to the very last second and hung on by the skin of their teeth. They ground out the desperation victory 47-46 and came away with a hard-fought W.
Coach Dinkins spoke to the overall effort in the tournament with, “Playing four games in four days is extremely challenging. We knew it would be a grind it out type of game and we had to remind our guys often to keep competing through the adversity. We overcame foul trouble, fatigue and playing a very physical team. Our interior defense and rebounding was much better and was crucial at the end of the game to keep North County from getting a good shot and allowing us to come away with a tough win. Overall, a great tournament for us! We faced many different obstacles and those valuable experiences will help us improve our team as we move into the second half of the season!”
Tez Burse was the leading scorer once again with 19, totaling nearly half of his team’s points. He also led the way with seven rebounds, while Jermarquis Burse was the only other player in double figures with 10.
The Panthers had a brief stumble, but they are 12-1 on the season and rallied with back-to-back wins after their first loss. They will look to continue the winning streak in 2023 as they head to Bunker on 1/3 to christen the new year.