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Portal set to host holiday tournament

Portal set to host holiday tournament

Portal set to host holiday tournament

Portal is no stranger to big holiday basketball tournaments, but this season the Panthers will finally be able to play the role of host.

Along with the opening of the brand new middle-high school, Portal has also cut the ribbon on a new basketball gym, which it has used to draw in five other schools for a tournament spanning from tonight through Thursday.

"It’s really nice to have the new gym," said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. "A lot of people get excited about these tournaments that are held over the holidays. Now that we have a facility that can accommodate something like that, we’ll be able to host tournaments instead of having to travel for them."

In its first run at assembling a big tournament, Portal has done an admirable job of attracting talent. Bryan County, Emmanuel County Institute, Savannah Country Day, Brunswick and McIntosh County Academy will all join the Panthers in the six-team round robin tournament.

Aside from the additional games that Portal will get to play in front of its home crowd, the tournament also serves a very valuable purpose. With most of the non-region schedule behind teams from throughout the state, these final tournaments and showcases offer a last chance for squads to get all of their questions squared away before the new year brings about the start of a grueling region schedule.

"It’s a good challenge for us and everyone else," said Brannen. "These tournaments give you a chance to face new teams. There are a few teams in our tournament that are in the same region, but we’ve scheduled things to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to see something different that they can use to help build their team."

Aside from the different styles of play that these tournaments can help team acclimate themselves to, they also offer a component of physical conditioning that can serve teams well in the future.

This season, Brannen and his coaching staff have a young team that they will have to prepare both mentally and physically for a run at the state playoffs. With the hectic schedules of early-season tournaments, the stress of future endeavors can be shown to the younger players.

"This tournament will provide the atmosphere of our region tournament," said Brannen. "We might be a little sluggish coming back from the Christmas break, but we’re going to have to play good opponents three nights in a row. We might be a little tired at the end of the season, and this is the same kind of test that we’ll have to face."

Portal has been very successful in overcoming obstacles so far this season.

Despite losing their top three scorers from the 2009-10 campaign, Portal has compiled a 5-1 record to start its season including wins over Montgomery County and Johnson County - both of whom are figured to contend with the Panthers for the top spot in the western division of Region 3-A.

Sophomore forward Corey Reese has been a force in the middle for Portal - which is guard-heavy and depends on Reese for rebounding and defense - and Senior Jamie Hagins has averaged nearly 15 points per game while freshman sensation Stacey Morgan has broken onto the scene averaging over 10 points per night for the Panthers.

"I think that we’ve got a lot of talent," said Brannen. "But we still have room to grow. That’s them main thing that I want to see in this tournament. We’ve struggled with distractions in front of the home crowd a little. Now we have a chance to play some good teams at home. If we can improve a little with each game, I think it will serve us well down the road."


Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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