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Portal wins battle of region heavyweights

Portal wins battle of region heavyweights

Portal wins battle of region heavyweights

    PORTAL — The Portal Panthers held a 22 point lead midway through the second quarter, and if you showed up at halftime, you’d never have known it.
    The lead changed hands eight times in the second half and the Panthers fought their way to a 77-71 win over Calvary Day in a battle of Region 3A-A heavyweights.
“We controlled the tempo in the first quarter, then they controlled it,” Portal coach Jeff Brannen said. “It was like it was two different games. We came out in the second half and played a little man-to-man, because we were trapping and giving up too many easy shots.”
    The Panthers (18-3, 7-1 Region 3A-A) opened the game with an explosive first quarter, hitting five 3-pointers in the first 8 minutes. Stacey Morgan and Trent Thomas each hit a pair, as the Panthers ran ahead for a 27-12 lead.
    Thomas immediately hit another 3 to open the second quarter, and after extending a 14-0 run, Portal took its largest lead, 34-12, midway through the second quarter.
    Thomas had a monster night, pulling down 12 rebounds and scoring a game-high 29 points, including four 3s. Morgan scored 22 points.
    Calvary (12-4, 6-2) beat Portal in the season’s first matchup on Jan 6, 55-47. Portal answered with its first win over the Cavaliers in two years.
    “Down there we had mental mistakes,” Thomas said about the early loss. “We knew we could beat them, and it just feels good to come back here and get the win.”
    Calvary woke up and pounded out a 16-4 run in the second quarter, stopped only by another Morgan 3.
    What looked like an early blowout turned into a 44-37 Portal lead at halftime.
    Calvary took its first lead of the game 1:13 into the third quarter with eight straight points, including a 3 by a Khaliqk Hughes that put the Cavaliers ahead 45-44.
    “We had a lot of resiliency. We made our run, we went up big, and they went up,” Brannen said. “We didn’t fold. We had some costly turnovers and they’re a good team, they took advantage of it.”
    After the Cavs regained the lead, the heavyweight fight started, with the teams trading blows to the tune of seven third-quarter lead changes and a tie. Another Thomas 3 put the Panthers ahead 57-54 at the end of the third.
    Calvary made one final fourth-quarter run, retaking the lead with an A.J. Keene 3, but a Morgan layup made it 63-62 and Portal closed out the win with free throws by Morgan and Marquis Wells.
    “It’s a big win,” Brannen said. “Calvary’s won this region the last two years and we’ve gone as a No. 2 seed. We still have two subregion games to play, and our subregion is tough every night.”
    Calvary was led by Keene and Derek Kirkland, who each scored 18 points. Kirkland scored 17 in the first half but was nearly shut out in the second.
    Portal is back in action against Bryan County for a non-region game at home on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Lady Cavaliers 53, Lady Panthers 48
    Breyonna Raymond scored 19 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, and the Lady Panthers were within five points during most of the back-and-forth fourth quarter, but Calvary Day held on for a 53-48 win over Portal on Friday.
    Portal clawed back into the game after Calvary opened the first quarter with an 18-4 run.
    “The problem was we started so slow,” Portal coach Cliff Hubbard said. “It’s hard to recover from that, because Calvary’s a good team. We had to fight, we hit some shots and got back in it, but we just couldn’t close the deal.”
    Abigail Lewis led Calvary with 16 points.
    Raymond grabbed a defensive rebound with less than three minutes to go and ran the floor for a layup that cut the CDS lead to 46-43, but the Cavs answered with four straight points to seal the win.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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