By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
SPRINGFIELD - In Friday's semifinal, Mound City was the one to take charge, leading St. Elizabeth 32-4 at one point.
On Saturday, the Panthers (29-2) got behind early and made a strong rally, but came up short in a 61-45 loss to South Iron in the Class 1 boys' state basketball championship at JHQ Arena in Springfield.
Playing in their first Final Four in 39 years, it wasn't the ending junior superstar Tony Osburn and his team had envisioned, but the run was nevertheless a special one.
"We're sad and a little bit angry," Osburn admitted. "We felt like things didn't go our way, but that's not an excuse. It was a great year. And I just really want to give a shoutout to Conner Derr, Brendan Tubbs, William Rother, Lane Zembles and Wil Young. I feel like those guys don't get the recognition they deserve, and this year is completely impossible without those guys right there."
Mound City got behind by 21-9 in the second quarter before junior Tony Osburn exploded for 17 second quarter points, giving the Panthers a 29-28 halftime lead.
South Iron, also called the Panthers, responded, outscoring Mound City 17-9 in the third quarter and then 24-13 in the fourth.
With Osborne, and seniors Landon Poppa and Gage Salsbury racking up three or more fouls each, Mound City had trouble containing a high-flying South Iron team, who outscored Mound City 30-8 in the paint and 10-2 on fast breaks in the second half.
Mound City also just went cold from the field in general, shooting 6-of-28 in the final 16 minutes, including 2-of-18 from three. South Iron also won the rebounding battle 41-29.
"We just got in foul trouble and it got a little away from us," said Osburn, "and we had to scramble they got layups. That comes with scrambling. You have to take gambles, or you're not going to be in the game."
South Iron had dazzling performances from several different cast members, including senior and Citadel basketball commit Brock Wakefield, who scored a team-high 22 points and doled out six assists.
Senior Jemarco Burse scored a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Osburn, who scored a game-high 24, including 15 from three, has one more year left in his already storied career. His dad and coach, Ryan, said on Wednesday that Tony will start workouts almost immediately after the team's trip home.
With his teammates and community behind him, Osburn is laser focused on getting his team back to the big stage in a year's time. He'll have 10 other players on this year's roster coming back with him to try and make another historic run.
"I'm really just trying to make other guys better," said Osburn. "If we're going to be successful, there's going to be two guys guarding me some games. So, those guys have to be able to step up and make shots. Then, we'll be really hard to guard, and hopefully we'll be back if that's the case."
South Iron 61 - 13, 15, 17, 24
Mound City 45 - 4, 25, 8, 13
South Iron scorers - Brock Wakefield - 22, Jemarco Burse - 20, DJ Prater - 10, Drenin Dinkins - 9, Luke Lunyou - 6, Champ McMurry - 2
Mound City scorers - Tony Osburn - 24, Landon Poppa - 10, Gage Salsbury - 7, Wil Young - 7, Brendan Tubbs - 2
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