The Southern Middle School boys’ basketball team will be playing for a conference championship next week and will be taking a load of momentum with it.
The Panthers capped off the regular season with a 60-47 victory against cross-county rival Northern Middle School Thursday at home on the final day of the regular season in front of a raucous crows at Southern. Southern locked up the OPAC Northern Division crown before the game and will face Phillips in the conference championship game Tuesday in Chapel Hill.
The Panthers’ approach in Thursday’s rivalry game was simple and effective — feed the big man.
Six-foot-5 center Ty Outlaw dominated throughout, finishing with 35 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.
But it was far from easy for the Panthers.
Northern got off to a blistering start and led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter after Julian Crawley was able to corral a loose ball and score at the buzzer.
Crawley scored eight points in the first quarter, but was forced to the bench after picking up his second foul less than a minute into the second quarter.
In his absence, the Raiders responded with six straight points to take a 22-12, forcing a Southern timeout to try to slow the momentum.
The Panthers controlled the final 3:57 of the first half, outscoring Northern 17-3 to take a 29-25 lead into the half.
Southern stretched the lead throughout the early stages of the third quarter and took a 48-36 advantage into the fourth quarter after Daveon Marner picked off a pass near halfcourt and found Toreonno Graves for a layup just before the buzzer sounded.
The Panthers held a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.
Ben Pettiford chipped in seven points for Southern, while Collin Hurdle and Marner finished with five points each.
Lamont Johnson added four points, while Paxton Tuck and Graves rounded out the scoring with two.
Crawley paced the Raiders with 18 points, while Tremerian Stanton added seven. Jacoby Wheeler poured in 12 points, while Kevin Burton scored all nine of his from 3-point range. Luis Vargas finished up the Northern scoring with one point.