Lady Panthers End Incredible Season in Sectional Round of State Tourney

The South Iron Lady Panthers fall 62-58 in the first round of the State Championship Tournament to a tough Delta squad.

Photo courtesy of Brandy Dinkins

The Lady Panthers of South Iron had an incredible 25-3 season against some very stiff competition from much larger programs, but it came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday as they ran into a buzzsaw in the form of a very tough Delta team in the first game of the Class 1 State playoffs. It came down to the final minute, but the Panthers couldn’t find those last four points and they fell 62-58.

The game started off favorably for the Panthers, ass they led 14-12 after the first quarter, thanks in large part to 10 points from Madison Ayers. They would build their lead in the second, despite the team running into foul trouble. Ayers had another 10 points and Anna Parker came up with seven of her own, giving South Iron a 32-27 lead at the half.

Delta came out gunning after the break though. The Panther defense couldn’t keep up and Delta dropped 24 points on them. South Iron managed 15, but the third quarter result flipped their lead into a deficit. They would trail 51-47 going into the final eight minutes of play.

The Panthers rallied as the game was drawing to a close though, and after being down seven they managed to tie it up with just under a minute left to play. Unfortunately, Delta scored the last four points and the Panthers didn’t have an answer offensively. As the final buzzer sounded, the season and hopes of a State Title ended with a 62-58 loss.

Assistant Coach Jeff Ayers spoke about the loss, saying, “Our defense in the 3rd quarter was not up to our normal standards. We let Delta dribble drive way too much, which was a focus point we stressed before the game. This was a devastating loss to a good Delta team. We had much higher aspersions, but finished the season 25-3. Our girls played their heart out this season and we were fortunate to showcase this team around the state.”

It’s never easy when you know you in your heart you can go all the way, but one off night spoils a deep run. Still, these Panthers have nothing to hang their heads about. They had a fantastic season against very tough competition and still managed to dominate in all but three of their 28 games.

The starting five were a force to be reckoned with this season. Seniors Ayers, Drew Gayle and Allecia Cornell all had brilliant seasons and will be sorely missed next year. Ayers averaged 17.5 PPG, six assists, 4.5 rebounds and 5.5 steals per game, and became the all-time leading scorer for the Lady Panthers. She reached a few other milestones this year as well, getting to 1,500 points, 500 assists and 500 steals in her career.

Cornell had a huge impact as well, averaging eight PPG, 3.2 steals and three assists per game, while Gayle was good for 6.4 PPG, was huge around the rim with six rebounds per game and was deadly from outside with a 43% ratio from beyond the arc.

Juniors Parker and Enzley Dinkins had incredible seasons as well. Both girls managed to reach 1,000 points for their careers this year and were instrumental in the 25-win season. Parker led the team in scoring with 18 points per game and made 53 three-pointers. She also averaged 2.3 steals per game. As for Dinkins, she was money in the paint with a 57% average from the floor and was good for 15.3 PPG and eight rebounds per game to lead the team.

It reads like a list of superstars and all their accomplishments, which just goes to show you how special this team was. Parker and Dinkins will lead the charge next year to try and capture an eight straight District Title, and that should be a comforting thought for South Iron fans.

Congrats to all the Lady Panthers on a fantastic 2022-23 season. Lady Panthers End Incredible Season in Sectional Round of State Tourney

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