The South Iron Panthers are looking to make it three consecutive Class 1 State Championships in a row. And they’re now just two games away.
The Panthers took down Chadwick on Monday 49-46 before knocking off Clarkton on Friday 77-63. That puts then in the State Semifinals, and just two wins away from winning their third straight Class 1 State Title. The competition only gets tougher from here but the Panthers are in the zone right now.
The game on Monday was a thriller against a familiar foe in Chadwick after meeting in sectional play the last three years. The Panthers and the Cardinals were tied at 9-all after the first quarter, and this appeared to be as tight as a drum, but Chadwick found an edge in the second. They put up 17 and held South Iron to just 10, which meant the Panthers had some work to do. They would need to find another gear to crawl out of a seven-point hole in the second half.
Thankfully, the break was kind to the boys from Annapolis and they managed to pull even with a 16-9 effort in the third quarter. It was a gritty performance to rally back and tie the game up with just one stanza left in the script. The two teams were all knotted up at 35 apiece, and there were just eight minutes left to see who moves on and who goes home.
The final quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but the Panthers were responsible defensively and hit their shots when it counted. They allowed just 11 points to the Cardinals and kept them off the scoreboard when it mattered most. After 14 points of their own, they emerged with a tight but satisfying 49-46 victory that sent them to the State Quarterfinals.
Sawyer Huff was the leading scorer for the Panthers with 15 points. He picked up three boards, three assists and made 2-of-4 shots from beyond the arc in the process. Jermartez Burse was next in the pecking order with 12 points, but his aim was a bit off in this one. He went 2-of-9 from 2-point range and 2-of-6 from 3-point range, but he did have three rebounds, three assists and five steals. Jermarquis Burse was the only other player in double digits with 11 points, but Gabe Ruble did hit a trio of treys for nine of his own.
On to the Quarterfinals. Surprisingly, the competition in the next round wouldn’t pose as much of a threat as Chadwick. The Panthers went up early in this one and they managed to make it stick. They won the first-quarter battle 15-9 and then came out gunning in the second. They dropped 19 on Clarkton and held their opposition to just 13 to open up a 34-22 lead at the break.
Apparently the locker room speeches were great for both teams, because the offensive output in the third quarter was by far the best of the game. Both teams threw down 23 points and traded baskets back and forth, but South Iron still retained their 12 point lead. Normally the fourth quarter would be a chance to ease up a bit with a lead of this size, but this the State Tournament, and the Panthers weren’t taking any chances.
They dropped 20 on Clarkton and held them to 18 to secure the win 77-63. That moved South Iron into the State Semis for the third straight season and kept the dream alive for a “three-peat”.
Tez Burse and Huff shared the points lead in this one with 19 apiece. Tez had four assists and six rebounds, while Huff accumulated three boards and a pair of steals to go with his point total. Ruble was deadly from the outside, going 3-of-5 from downtown, and racked up 18 points of his own on top of his team-leading five steals. Jermarquis Burse finished with 11 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with Hunter Huff with seven.
Just another day at the office for the South Iron Panthers. After the long haul to Springfield for the Final Four, the Panthers will look to keep the line moving on Thursday when they take on Platte Valley. Just two wins to go.
Good luck boys!