The dream is still alive.
The South Iron Panthers Boys Varsity Basketball team is headed back to the Class 1 State Finals for the third year in a row. They won back-to-back State Championships in 2021 and 2022 and now look for the elusive “three-peat” after defeating Platte Valley in the Semifinals 65-49.
The Panthers wiped out Mound City/Craig 69-50 in 2021, and then rolled over Stanberry 71-45 last year to get where they are today. Their third shot at a State Title comes after a grueling but successful 27-4 season where they played up to their level of competition.
After winning Districts, they bested a 20-win Chadwick team 49-46 with a nail-biter in the first round of the State playoffs, and then took down Clarkton 77-63 to send them to the Semis. That victory brought this seemingly destined squad to the penultimate stage against Platte Valley.
And the Panthers didn’t disappoint.
Thursday’s game against the Eagles in Springfield started out ominously with a dead-even first quarter. Each team scored 11 points and the two clubs were figuring each other out. Well, South Iron must have gleaned something from the first eight minutes because they went off on a 13-0 run to start the second. The Brothers Burse, Jermartez and Jermarquis, were responsible for all 13 points during the run.
That double-digit lead created enough separation for the Panthers to own the court and the clock for the remainder of the first half and just do their thing. Platte fired back a bit, going on a 7-2 run to close out the half, but when the buzzer sounded the Panthers still owned a 26-18 lead.
After the break, things tightened up once again, as both teams notched 17 points in the frame. The Eagles went on a bit of a run, and cut the Panther lead to just five points, but a big three from Kolton Dinkins energized South Iron and they were able to get the lead back to double digits. The shot from downtown was just one of four on the night for him.
The Panthers were a well-oiled machine the rest of the way. They won the fourth-quarter battle 22-14 and held on for the 65-49 victory, taking them one step closer to the ultimate goal… for a third straight year.
‘Tez Burse had a heck of a game with 27 points to lead all scorers and earned himself a double-double with 11 rebounds as well. He also had four steals and went 7-of-10 from the line to help cement the victory.
Dinkins was the outside maestro in this one, hitting four of six from downtown and totaling 14 points, while Sawyer Huff and ‘Quis Burse each had 11 points. As a team, the Panthers shot 44% from the field and made nearly half of their shots from beyond the arc.
It was a well-played, well-coached game, and South Iron now gets to test their metal once again in the final game for all the marbles.
Now sitting at 27-4 on the season, they will take on a 21-win St. Elizabeth team in the finals tomorrow to try and bring home some all-too-familiar hardware.
Tip off is at 2 pm. Good luck Panthers!