By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
MOBERLY, Mo. -- Early in the season, Canton boys basketball coach Andy Anderson told his team any opponent that beats the Tigers would deserve to win.
That was true Saturday.
Salisbury went on a 20-2 run in the first half and ended Canton's run at a final four appearance with a 68-34 victory in the Class 2 state quarterfinals at Moberly Area Community College.
"That might be one of the best teams we've played since I've been at Canton," said Anderson, who has won 242 games in 13 seasons with the Tigers. "They're big and strong. They have length and they're athletic. They're talented."
The Panthers (18-1) executed when the Tigers (27-2) didn't.
Canton trailed 7-6 in the first quarter before Salisbury's Austin Francis energized the crowd with a two-handed dunk. The Panthers fed off the energy, closing the first quarter on a 7-0 spurt.
The Tigers' Brandon Berhorst scored on a putback for the first points of the second quarter more than two minutes into the frame, but Salisbury answered with a 3-pointer. That spearheaded a 13-0 run that didn't end until Tyler Niemann's putback.
"We had a lot of one pass and shoot," Anderson said. "We didn't work the ball much in the first half."
Leading 30-12 at halftime, Salisbury opened the second half on a 7-3 run and instituted a running clock on Canton in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we battled, kept playing, even in the fourth quarter," Anderson said. "I was proud of that. These kids never gave up."
Niemann led Canton with 13 points, while Berhorst added 10 points and Gabe McKenzie chipped in eight. David McReynolds had three points before fouling out.
McReynolds is the only senior in that group as the Tigers return four of their top six players.
"I thought we'd have a good year, but I didn't imagine this," Anderson said. "We had a great year."