Closer to Birmingham

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 24, 2005

TROY – Jeffrey Anderson was 6-years-old when the Southside High School Panthers last made it to the Class 4A regional tournament semi finals.

While the Southside junior center can’t remember that far back, he remembers that the Panthers have some unfinished business remaining.

The Panthers earned their first appearance in the AHSAA Class 4A regional semi finals since 1994 by beating the Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars, 73-55, Wednesday night at Troy State University.

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The Panthers advanced to the regional semi final Saturday morning at 10:40 a.m. at Troy University.

The Panthers will face Central-Coosa, which beat the Panthers in the Area 4 championship the last two seasons before moving to Area 5 this year.

Central-Coosa also beat the Panthers in last year’s regional quarterfinals and in the sub-regional tournament two years ago.

“They out-rebounded us and they beat us,” Anderson said of last year’s loss.

Against the Jags,

Anderson was one of four Panthers who scored in double figures. He finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting.

Southside coach Velton Robinson made a few adjustments at halftime.

“In the first half,” Robinson said, “we were doing all the fouling. I told the guys to stop reaching, to stop playing with their hands.”

Instead, the Panthers used their hands in more constructive ways – like shooting down the Jaguars. Southside held just a 37-34 halftime lead, but came out red hot in the third period.

Leading 42-40, Southside went on a 13-4 run to put some space between themselves and Hillcrest-Evergreen. Anderson starred in the run, as his teammates wee able to get the ball down low to the 6-foot-4 center.

Anderson fielded Jermarcus Hardy’s bounce pass along the baseline and drove in for a lay-up that put the Panthers ahead 49-43.

Hardy also got into the scoring act when he took Deonta Williams’ touch pass from the right wing and drove the left baseline for a pull-up, seven-foot jumper that increased the margin to 53-43.

Point guard Fontano Watters also helped engineer the Southside run with some slick ball handling.

Watters slipped away from Hillcrest-Evergreen guard Frank Williams and knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing to give Southside a commanding 60-48 lead early in the fourth period.

The Panthers’ sophomore point guard then sent a touch pass to Williams, who drained a jumper from the right wing for a 62-50 advantage.

“Fontano Watters controlled the game in the second half,” Robinson said. “He handled the ball really well.”

As for the Panthers’ opponent in the regional final, Robinson said he expects another game like the two had years ago.

“Every time we played them,” he said, “it was a dogfight. They can shoot. That’s one thing they can do is shoot the ball really well. They can take it to the hole.”

Robinson expressed concern with Coosa-Valley center Kelvin Kelley, who lit up Rehobeth for 33 points in just 27 minutes in a 75-49 win Wednesday.

Kelley was 13-for-20 from the field overall and 7-of-11 from beyond the three-point arc.

“We’ve got to get someone on that guy,” Robinson said.