Southern was hot in the first period, and host Annapolis appeared to be ripe for an upset in Anne Arundel County boys basketball last night.
Then the fourth-ranked Panthers got hot and closed the half with a 20-5 run for a 33-32 lead on the way to a 72-57 victory.
Laronja Owens and Josh Johnson led the way with 48 points between them, and Dave Gioffre made a personal-best five three-pointers for his 15 points.
Southern had a 22-9 lead at the end of the first period, thanks to seven points each by Brandon Tyler and Chuck Warring.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 27-13 on a pair of free throws by Adrian Gross with 5:05 left in the first half before finishing the second period by making three of 17 shots. Gross led his team with 18 points and nine rebounds.
From that point on, it was all Annapolis, as the Panthers shot 10-for-18 from the field in the second period. A basket by Owens 60 seconds before the break gave the Panthers the lead for good at 33-32.
Southern was without leading scorer Justin Holland, who is out indefinitely after injuring his shoulder in physical education class this week.
"We came out ready to play, but they shot the ball very well in the first period [8-for-14], and to our credit, we didn't panic," said Panthers coach John Brady, whose team rode 11 points by Johnson (game-high 12 rebounds) in the third period for a 60-46 lead going into the final eight minutes.
"We play pretty good defense, and while they were shooting well, we kept our composure. We're a very confident team."
The victory gave the Panthers (20-0) their 21st 20-win season in 25 years under Brady and the seventh in a row, two short of their record nine from 1983-84 to 1991-92.
Annapolis has clinched a berth in the Anne Arundel championship game Feb. 19 at Broadneck and is seeking a third straight undefeated regular season against league foes. The Panthers have won 56 consecutive games over county opponents.
No. 16 Southern (13-7) came into the game tied for second with No. 18 Glen Burnie (14-6), but the Gophers romped over Northeast to take sole possession of second at 11-3, while Southern fell to 10-4.
There are two league games left, and the second-place team will play Annapolis in the county championship. No. 9 Meade (15-5, 10-4) beat North County (12-8, 9-5) last night, 88-76, to tie Southern for third.
"We wanted, but we just don't have the ammunition they've got," said Southern coach Tom Albright, who also got 13 points from Vince Greenfield.
"I was hoping we would keep it closer, but fatigue got us [playing basically six players], and we started doing things we weren't doing earlier."
Annapolis shot 48 percent (28-for-58) for the game, while Southern shot 37 percent (22-for-59).