The smile of Southern coach Meredith Smith told the story last night.
Damon Cason scored 26 points and Dante Williams added 23 as No. 4 Southern jumped to a 21-point first-half lead and rolled to an 80-65 victory over No. 3 seed and host Walbrook in the Class 3A, Region III title game.
Third-seeded Southern (18-5) advances to the state semifinals at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House on Thursday or Friday. Walbrook finished the season at 19-4.
The play of his Bulldogs delighted Smith. Smith said his team did the three things it needed for a victory -- protect the ball, make key free throws and play good defense.
"I thought it was tremendous," said Smith. "They played focused. They played a very disciplined game. They did everything I asked them to do."
Smith wanted the Bulldogs to pound the ball inside to Williams, Tyrone Smith (eight points) and Alphonso Hawes (nine points). He felt that, in turn, would open up the outside for Cason.
After struggling in the first few minutes, that's what happened. The Bulldogs got only two shots in the first three minutes and fell behind, 9-4.
Southern then took over. The Bulldogs started executing the coach's strategy and went on a 38-10 run that gave it a 40-19 lead with 3:39 left in the second quarter.
Cason and Williams keyed the run. Cason made several good feeds down low and complemented them with outside shots. Williams made shots inside and outside.
Williams finished with 17 of his 23 points in the first half.
"I like to take control when I have to," said Williams, who had 10 rebounds. "We had to keep the ball off the floor to get good shots. That's the key."
Once Southern took its big lead in the second quarter, it spread the floor on offense for the rest of the game. That slowed the game's tempo and kept Walbrook from turning the game into a track meet.
"Coach told us to get some time off of the clock," said Cason, who played with a broken nose. "He [said] to get a layup or an open shot."
Cason played a strong game. The point guard ran the Bulldogs' offense smoothly and made several key shots. He made a four-point play thanks to a three-point shot and a free throw.
Southern got the Warriors into foul trouble early. Walbrook was called for 20 fouls in the first half, and six Warriors had at least two fouls at that point.
Overall, Walbrook had four players, including two starters, foul out.
"Basketball is a team game," said Walbrook coach Gus Herrington. "The team that does that the best is going to win 95 percent of the time. The better team won."
Walbrook got strong efforts from Antwan Wingo (17 points) and Troy Parker (13 points). Parker scored the first eight points of the second half, but Walbrook could never pull closer than 10 points.
For Southern, the talk now is of winning a state championship.
"It's a great feeling," said Cason. "Making it to [Cole Field House] means nothing. I want to come out a winner."