WASHINGTON -- Senior co-captains Derrick Watkins and Kwame Evans made the big plays down the stretch, as No. 2-ranked Southern (7-1) withstood a fourth-quarter Parkdale rally and survived with a 92-84 semifinal victory in the D.C. Armory Board-Trills Holiday Classic last night.
The victory puts Southern into tonight's 9:15 championship game against Archbishop Carroll (8-1), which defeated Dunbar (D.C.), 71-52, in the other semifinal.
Leading by 13 points midway in the third quarter, Southern saw the defending state champion Panthers (4-1) outscore them, 16-8, in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to take a 76-73 lead -- Parkdale's first since a 6-2 margin at the game's outset.
But Watkins, who finished with 22 points, made a steal and two free throws to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay, 79-78, with just more than two minutes left.
Watkins added a fast-break dunk less than a minute later and Evans, who scored 21, then hit a three-pointer to open an 86-80 lead with 1 minute, 12 seconds to play.
Sophomore point guard Damon Cason, who scored 17, then hit six free throws in the final minute to preserve the lead at Georgetown's McDonough Arena.
Southern coach Meredith Smith said he wasn't happy with his team's play or the way the game was officiated.
"Our execution was poor, particularly our offense against the press," he said. "But I thought the game was called too close both ways. We came down here to play ball. Our forte is defense, but we couldn't play it the way we want to."
Southern also got good offensive numbers from sophomores Kevin Simpson, who scored 18 points, and Dante Williams, who had 13.
The 92 points broke the tournament scoring mark set by Southern's 89 points in Thursday's opening round.
As it did in the opening round victory over Quince Orchard, Southern opened the game with torrid shooting. The Bulldogs made their first six shots from the field to open a 14-6 lead 2:40 into the game.
But Parkdale's full-court pressing defense caused the Bulldogs some early problems, and Southern led by only 26-22 after the first quarter, despite hitting 11 of 17 from the field. Cason chipped in with six assists in the opening quarter, distributing the ball effectively when Southern beat the Panthers' pressure. Simpson and Watkins were the chief recipients, combining for seven field goals without a miss in the quarter.
In the second quarter Southern opened the lead to as much as nine points and led at halftime, 47-39. But Watkins picked up his third foul, an intentional one, with three minutes left in the half and Evans was whistled for his third a minute later.
The Parkdale pressure wore down the Bulldogs early in the fourth quarter, but Southern regrouped after Smith called time.
"Parkdale kept hustling on defense," said Smith. "They were tenacious, and they were very quick. But I told my team that we had to protect the ball and stop them on defense."