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Panthers fall to Hornets 37-34

Panthers fall to Hornets 37-34

Panthers fall to Hornets 37-34

PORTAL — An early second half run vaulted Portal into the lead, but Savannah Country Day had a rally of its own up its sleeve as the Hornets earned a 37-34 win Wednesday night at the Portal Holiday Classic.
    Portal clung to a 29-27 lead after three quarters, but the Hornet defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, allowing just five Panther points while its offense found just enough to pull ahead.
    “We just didn’t play very well tonight,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “We weren’t getting or hitting enough of the shots that we wanted, and I think that we allowed ourselves to get into the kind of game that Savannah Country Day wanted to play.”
    Tate O’Connor (14 points) hit a layup with three seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut into the Portal lead and tied the game with a pair of free throws early in the fourth.
    Kevin Blackburne — who also notched 14 — then hit a pair of runners sandwiched around a 3 by Portal’s Jordan Buchannon to give SCD a 33-32 lead that it never gave back.
    The Hornets were in the bonus throughout much of the final period, but were unable to give themselves additional breathing room as the Panthers started to foul.
    With less than three minutes to play — and while still protecting its one-point lead — SCD missed on the front end of consecutive 1-and-1 situations, but the Hornet defense rose to the challenge to deny Portal a chance to retake the lead.
    “It was a combination of things that hurt us,” said Brannen. “Country Day was playing some good defense, but we were standing around too much when we had the ball. I think that we were working so hard on playing tough defense that it hurt us on the other end of the floor.”
    For awhile, it looked like Portal had seized the upper hand.
    The Panthers trailed 22-20 at halftime, but stormed out of the locker room to the tune of a 7-0 run.
    Leading the charge was freshman guard Stacey Morgan who led Portal with 13 points. Also chipping in for the Panthers were Jamie Hagins and Corey Reese – who scored 8 points each – but the offense dried up over the final 10 minutes as SCD powered forward.
    In Wednesday’s earlier games, Brunswick crushed Bryan County by a count of 79-25 and McIntosh County Academy rolled over Emanuel County Institute by a 72-40 margin.
    Portal plays its final game of the tournament tonight when the Panthers take on MacIntosh County Academy at 7:30 p.m. ECI and Bryan County will begin today’s final round with a 4:30 p.m. tipoff and Savannah Country Day will follow with a game against Brunswick scheduled for 6 p.m.

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

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