Panthers in title game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

BIRMINGHAM – This season has brought about a sense of enjoyment and exuberance for Jeffery Anderson. The best part is, the most enjoyable moments lie ahead.

Anderson poured in a game-high 31 points and ignited a third quarter rally that lifted the Southside High School Panthers to a 76-54 win over the Saks Wildcats in the Class 4A state semifinals Wednesday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. The Panthers (30-2) will face Greene County for the state championship Friday at 8 p.m. Greene County beat Deshler 51-48 in the other Class 4A semifinal Wednesday afternoon.

Anderson helped the Panthers come back from a 45-40 deficit with a strong, physical baseline game that was anything but an enjoyable experience for the Wildcats.

Email newsletter signup

“I just go out there and have fun,” Anderson said. “My main goal is to have fun with my teammates.”

The Panthers had fun early on, with Anderson’s pass to Travis Shine for a baseline runner giving Southside its largest lead of the first half, 30-23. Fontano Watters’ driving lay-up through the lane matched the lead at 32-25.

The Wildcats, however, ended the half with four free throws from Jeremy Harris to close to within 32-29 at intermission.

“West and Harris started hurting us,” Southside coach Velton Robinson said. “I told the guys we had to buckle down and play some defense.”

The Wildcats went to a much more distant attack in the third quarter. Saks hit four 3-pointers in the first 4:30 of the third, including three from Nathan West. His final three from the right corner

put the Wildcats ahead, 45-40. West led the Wildcats with 15 points on five 3-pointers.

That’s when the Panthers coach’s words began to get through to his players.

Led by their pressure defense, the Panthers battled back and tied the game at 50 on two charity shots from Watters. The free throws also marked the beginning of the Panthers’ baseline and perimeter attack.

First, Anderson hit a turnaround jumper from the left wing, then followed up with a thunderous dunk off a pass from Willie Cooper to make it 54-50.

Cooper got another assist when he fed Deonta Williams on a right baseline lay-up at the third quarter buzzer to push the Panthers’ lead to 56-50.

Shine began the fourth quarter with an offensive rebound and putback that started a three-point play to make it 59-50.

Anderson added another powerful dunk from the left corner that opened the margin to 67-54. Shine and Williams also closed out the game with towering dunks.