When South Iron High School agreed to become the fifth Ameritime Sports client school, there’s no doubt basketball probably was the first thing readers thought of when they saw that Panthers logo. South Iron has a long tradition in basketball, both for boys and girls. Head girls coach Lawrence Graves knows there’s a lot of factors at work to gain the success the Panthers have had.
“We’ve been truly blessed with talented, hard-working kids since we’ve been here,” he said. “Not every program has all-conference, all-district, and even all-state caliber players year in and year out, but we have. Not only that, but we’ve been blessed with great parental support as well. It takes both of those to be able to do the things we’ve done the past few years.”
The South Iron girls program dates back to the 1974-75 season. Since its inauguration, the Lady Panthers have won district championships in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2011, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, with third place finishes at state in the 2017 and 2020 seasons. “Our hope is to continue to build that legacy for years to come,” Coach Graves noted.
Graves explained that, as a head coach, he needs help to keep South Iron where he wants it to be. “I’m truly grateful for the assistant coaches I’ve had since taking over the reigns back in 2013,” he commented. “Our current coaching staff (Jeff Ayers, Josh Rainey, and myself) came into the program about the same time. Since doing so, we have all shared a common vision for what we wanted to accomplish; to help our program win district championships. Since taking the helm, we have worked really hard to get our program to the point where we can compete for the district title each year. After losing two out of the first three district championship games (as a coaching staff), we have been able to win four in a row with two trips to the Final Four. Each year our goal is the same, and we feel like we have a pretty good recipe to help our teams find success.”
So when a fan takes a seat at a Panthers contest, what can he or she expect to see from the team in maroon and white? “The recipe always starts on the defensive end,” Coach Graves admitted. “And although we may switch our defensive strategy from year to year, the focus on being a really good defensive team is where it all starts for us. We want our kids to embody the blue-collar mindset it takes to be successful in this game. And if I may say so, they do a pretty good job of it.”
And the Lady Panthers don’t shy away from playing bigger schools. In fact, they relish it. “We actually seek out those opportunities,” Graves stated. “Not necessarily because we have something to prove, but to prepare us for our ultimate goal. As I mentioned, our goal is to learn to play at a high level, so playing the larger schools in our area is a really good way for us to learn to do so. We always teach our girls that good teams show you what you need to get better at. Learning to win at a high level is a process, and part of that process is being able to identify and address weaknesses. Many coaches may not share this mindset, but we are willing to risk losing regular season games in order to prepare us for a district championship run.”
Ameritime Sports is excited to welcome Coach Graves and the girls to our team. We can’t wait to cover each exciting game of the 2020-21 season.