Panthers claw way to finals

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 2004

Two hands grasped the shoulder of Southside High School boys’ coach Velton Robinson in the closing moments of Thursday night’s game against the Charles Henderson Trojans.

The hands, belonging to Rev. Curtis Williams, would not let go of Robinson’s shoulder, at least not at this critical point of the game.

Tim Sanders’ first of two free throws laid on the back rim for several seconds before finally falling through the net. Sanders’ second charity shot took a more direct path through the next and helped the Panthers secure a 50-45 victory over the Trojans.

Email newsletter signup

The victory advanced Southside, 11-0 and the top-ranked team in Class 4A, to the finals of the Wilcox Central Christmas Tournament. The Panthers will face the winner of Thursday night’s semifinal matchup between R.C. Hatch and Wilcox Central for the tournament title on Friday.

“Man, I didn’t think that ball would ever go into the basket,” Robinson said after the Panthers overcame a sluggish first half.

After hearing Robinson browbeat them at halftime for their passive play in the first half, the Panthers came out more aggressive in the second half.

Southside began attacking the boards and taking the ball to the basket, a complete turnaround from the first two periods when the Panthers were out-rebounded and out-played despite only trailing by four at halftime, 19-15.

“They were beating us to the rebounds,” Robinson said. “We weren’t playing aggressive enough.

“Sometimes we play like people are just going to lie down for us because we’re ranked number one,” Robinson added. “We have to realize that nobody’s going to lie down for us. We really have to come out and play every game.”

Which is what the Panthers did the rest of the way.

Forward Jeffery Anderson began the Panthers’ transformation into an basket-attacking machine with a strong move to the hoop that got him to the charity stripe. His two free throws quickly narrowed the margin to two, 19-17. The foul shots also started a 7-0 run that catapulted the Panthers into the lead, 22-19.

Even with Southside’s tougher play, the Trojans stayed in the game. Led by a front court of 6-foot-5 center Jason Swanson and 6-foot-3 forward Quavian Lewis, the Trojans stayed close and even had the lead on occasion. Lewis’ offensive rebound and put-back opened a 27-24 lead for Charles Henderson. After a Southside basket cut the margin back to one, Swanson hit one of two foul shots to push the lead back to two, 28-26.

The Panthers regained the lead on Jermarcus Hardy’s three-pointer as time expired in the third period.

With the score tied at 30 early in the fourth period, Hardy’s steal and subsequent lay-up, and Jeffery Anderson’s baseline lay-up gave the Panthers a 34-30 lead.

The teams battled from there, with Southside trying to maintain a lead while Charles Henderson fought back to tie the score on several occasions.

A Deonta Williams jumper from the paint put the Panthers up by four, only to have guard Brian Degernette’s jumper from the right wing make it a two-point game, 47-45 with 50 seconds to go.

The Trojans, however, went cold from there, missing their final four attempts from the field as the Panthers closed out the victory at the free-throw line.