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Panthers roll past Bryan County

   PORTAL — The Portal Panthers outscored Bryan County 24-9 in an explosive second quarter, routing the Redskins 81-56 Friday night in their region opener. Fred Williams had a game-high 23 points and Mario Ferris had 20 to lead the Panthers, who are now 5-0 and 1-0 in Region 3-A.
    Leading by 10 after the first period, PHS quickly made its lead 16 when point guard Marquan Jackson found Williams on a back-door alley-oop halfway through the second quarter. It was one of three dunks (out of four attempts) for Williams on the night. The senior also pulled down five rebounds and was 5-for-7 from the line.
    The Panthers were up 46-21 by halftime, and the game was never in doubt as PHS sent a message to the rest of Region 3-A that they will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
    “I think it was very important,” said Portal head coach Jeff Brannen on opening region play with a big victory. “We kind of struggled Tuesday night (in a win over Metter) and I think we needed to rebound. I thought the kids came out and played hard (tonight).”
    The Panthers started the game with a 9-2 run, seven of which were from Williams. But the Redskins (3-2, 0-1) hung around after the early barrage and actually got within four at one point.
    “We struggled early on but then it seemed like we got going, using our defense and making some shots down low,” said Brannen.
     The Panthers forced 11 first-half turnovers and Thomas Busby came off the bench in the second quarter to add eight of his nine points.
    In the third quarter, the tempo of the game slowed and Portal began to work its inside game, feeding Farris in the post and working the clock. Farris finished a rebound short of a double-double and was 3-for-6 from the line.
    Portal out-rebounded the Redskins 36-13 and made 14 free throws to BC’s two. Bryan County turned the ball over a total of 20 times while the Panthers gave it away 18 times. Portal hit five 3s while Bryan nailed eight.
    “We definitely (still) need to work on getting the ball inside,” said Brannen. “Most teams are playing four guards against us and we have to take advantage of our post, of our size down low. We have to work on our post entries and getting the ball in there.”
    
Lady Panthers 35, Lady Redskins 23
    The Lady Panthers of Portal got their first win on Friday night, beating Bryan County 35-23 to improve to 1-5 and 1-0. in Region 3-A. After playing its first five games against higher classified competition, Portal finally got to take on someone its own size.
    “I just asked the girls to improve every game,” said PHS head coach Earl Donaldson. “So I’m kind of satisfied with the performance. We didn’t do exactly what we should have done, but we made enough improvement to win the ballgame.”
    Just like their male counterparts, the Lady Panthers got off to a slow start against BCHS before a big second quarter aided them to victory.
    Portal didn’t score its first field goal until the 2:23 mark of the first quarter, a Bridgett Oglesby jumper from just inside the arc to give PHS its first lead at 5-4. Oglesby drained a three on Portal’s next possession and the Panthers rode that to a 12-6 lead after one.
    The second quarter wasn’t one to remember for Bryan County.
    The Redskins were held without a field goal during the frame and outscored 10-2. The Panthers went to a four-guard look and began to use a press to force turnovers and get easy transition buckets.
    “We knew that (Bryan County’s Liz Cross) was a pretty good post player,” said Donaldson. “So we went with a 2-3 zone to try and make a sandwich out of her to keep her away from the ball. And the girls did that, they did a great job with that 2-3 zone.”
    Cross had three blocks and seven rebounds, but was held to just eight points, two in the first half. Portal had a 22-8 lead going into the third quarter and a 28-12 advantage going into the fourth before Bryan County made a last push to cut into the lead.
    The Redskins went 11 minutes without a field goal before finally sinking a shot one minute into the fourth quarter.
    Sacona Sheffield led PHS with 11 points and played a stellar game.
    Oglesby was held to seven points, all in the first half, and pulled down nine rebounds. Amber Smith scored a game-high 13 points for BCHS in the losing effort.
    Portal will be on the road today in another crucial region match-up with Claxton. Tip-off for the girls game is 6 p.m. with the boys to follow.

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