After a tough defeat to arguably the most dangerous team they have ever played, the South Iron Lady Panthers rebounded from their loss to Vashon this week, taking down all three of their opponents. It started on Monday when they buried the Jackson Indians 70-54, continued on Wednesday with a 72-63 win over the top ranked Class 1 school in Arkansas and culminated on Friday with a 61-29 victory over the Lesterville Bearcats.
The game against Jackson didn’t start of as the Panthers hoped, falling into a 16-13 hole after a sluggish first eight minutes full of missed opportunities. But South Iron rebounded in the second with a 21-11 effort that featured a barrage of three-pointers. Anna Parker hit three of her four on the night in the second and the Panthers managed five as a team just in that one frame. The effort gave them a 34-27 lead heading into the break.
With halftime concluded, South Iron continued the pressure, putting up 18 more in the third and holding the Indians to 11 to extend their lead to 14 points. Eighteen more in the fourth would be the cherry on top, despite Jackson totaling 16 to match their highest output of the game. The Panthers sunk 8-of-10 from the charity stripe and Drew Gayle and Allecia Cornell each hit big threes in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers used their press to force 21 turnovers and as a team they were deadly from beyond the arc, hitting 9-of-17 for a 52% mark. Individually, Parker led the team with her four treys and 20 points, but was closely followed by Madison Ayers, who poured in 18 and had a pair of threes of her own. Enzley Dinkins was big at the line once again (as she always seems to be) and rattled off 16 points of her own.
Next up the Panthers took on a new test. One in the form of the top-ranked Class 1 team in Arkansas in Mammoth Springs. Due to a cancellation, South Iron had the opportunity to add a game to their schedule and they wanted a top-tier opponent to test their metal with playoffs quickly approaching.
It was as evenly matched as a battle could be in the first half, with the Panthers going up 21-18 in the first, but falling 18-15 in the second. That made for a very interesting 36-36 tie at the break, but it should be noted that Parker had a huge role to play despite South Iron not having the luxury of a lead. She buried 11 points in the first eight minutes and then tacked on nine more in the next frame. A 20-point half is nothing to scoff at.
In the third quarter Mammoth Springs kept momentum on their side, and went on a run to put them up by seven at one point, but the Panthers made some adjustments and came firing back. The defense found another gear and stepped up the intensity, which allowed the girls to eventually win the third-quarter battle 14-10. They would then ride some momentum of their own and take it to the next level in the fourth. Gayle blew up for 12 points in the final frame and Ayers had eight, with both players each going 6-for-6 at the line.
The Panthers held on for the 72-63 victory with a remarkable late turnaround. Despite laying low in the fourth quarter, Parker led the team with 27 points and the Panthers had four starters in double figures. Gayle had 17 with three makes from downtown, while Ayers and Cornell each had 11.
The final game of the week came on the road, as South Iron would travel to Lesterville to take on the Bearcats, and this one got away from the home team in a hurry. Despite a sloppy first quarter full of missed shots, the Panther press was still working and they managed a slight 12-9 advantage. That quickly turned into a 14-point lead as the visitors ironed out the kinks and went up 27-13 at the half. Parker was on it again as she was responsible for nearly half of the Panthers’ points.
Then the third quarter happened. South Iron broke the mold, scoring 30 points in eight minutes. Ayers hit three from downtown and added a free throw, Cornell and Dinkins each made four buckets and Parker chipped in with a pair. That set up a fourth where no one had to do much, but the defense stayed vigilant nonetheless. After a 5-4 quarter in favor of the Bearcats, it was still lopsided 61-29 victory.
It was Parker again with 18 points to pace the offense, but Dinkins and Ayers each had a dozen and Gayle put up a ten spot. As a team they forced a whopping 30 turnovers. It was another well-balanced team effort, and the girls have clearly regained their winning prowess after a brief hiccup against Vashon.
The three wins bumped their record to 20-2 on the season and they’ll look to add three more next week before the District Tournament begins. It will be tough sledding though, as the trio of opponents all boast fantastic records this year. Neelyville (15-6) is up first on Monday.