It was a bit of a rollercoaster for the South Iron Panthers this week, which is something they’re not typically accustomed to. On Tuesday they headed to Fredericktown to take on the Blackcats, and easily dispatched them 64-30, but the worm turned three days later when the Panthers returned home.
They hosted an 8-11 Waynesville club on Friday, and the Tigers stuck it to them with a shocking 60-54 victory. That was just the third loss of the season for South Iron.
How about good news first though? On Tuesday the Panthers, fresh off a Black River League Championship, took it to the Blackcats early and often. They dropped in 27 in the first quarter alone and blanketed Fredericktown to the tune of just six points for a huge early lead.
Things cooled in the second quarter, as the Panthers held an 11-8 advantage, but that staked them to a 38-14 lead at the half. That 24-point cushion would allow them to cruise in the final two quarters.
South Iron stuffed 19 more down the home team’s throat in the third and kept the Cats at bay by holding them to 10. That boosted their lead to 33 and allowed them to give the subs some minutes in the fourth quarter. The Panthers still outscored Fredericktown 7-6 in the final frame and held on for the 64-30 win.
Jermartez Burse was huge once again, leading all scorers with 22 points. He went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and led the team with nine rebounds. Backing him up from downtown was Gabe Ruble, who hit three deep shots as well and was good for 15 points. Sawyer Huff was the main distributor with five assists and had four rebounds and nine points to boot.
That win was number 18 on the season for the Panthers, but they wouldn’t be able to add to that total on Friday. Waynesville came into their building and they came in hot. After the first eight minutes the Tigers held a 14-10 advantage, and trailing early is not something South Iron is used to dealing with.
The Panthers didn’t have an answer in the second either, as Waynesville edged them out once again with a 16-12 frame. That put them up by eight at the halftime break, and the Tigers seemed to be in full control of this one.
Once play resumed the Panthers showed a bit more in the third quarter, putting up 16 points, but they still didn’t have an answer for the Tiger offense. The visitors managed 17 points and extended their lead to nine going into the fourth quarter.
South Iron showed some determination in the final eight minutes, finally outscoring Waynesville 16-13, but they were forced to foul and the comeback fell short. When the dust settled the Panthers had fallen 60-54 and dropped to 18-3 on the season.
Surprisingly, turnovers were not the issue, as South Iron committed just seven as a team. It was the shooting game that did them in though. The Panthers were and admirable 14-of-27 from the paint, but just 7-of-22 from three-point range. The long distance shots just weren’t falling, and when you attempt 22 of them, that’s going to result in an awful lot of transition. Especially with how Waynesville was gobbling up rebounds.
Despite the loss, Burse was fantastic once again. He had a double-double with 23 points and 11 boards and was 5-of-6 from the floor and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Huff was the only other player in double-digits with 13 points, but he was just 2-of-9 and 1-of-5 shooting.
The Panthers will look to rebound next Thursday as they take on a 10-8 Kingston squad. Tip off is at 6:30 in Annapolis.