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Buchannon sends Portal to Final Four

    COLUMBUS, Ga. — Portal’s hopes of a trip to the GHSA Class A state championship were on the line.
    The Panthers were tied with Terrell County at 65 with the last seconds of the quarterfinals ticking away after seeing a 20-point lead melt before their eyes.
    David Buchannon sank a layup as the horn sounded to give the Panthers a 67-65 win over the Greenwave and send PHS into the Final Four for the first time.
    “There were like four seconds left and I thought to myself, ‘get to the hole,’” said Buchannon. “I thought they were going to foul me, I didn’t think I’d be able to penetrate that deep.”
    Buchannon’s 32 points led the game, and after being held scoreless for the last five minutes of the third quarter, his 11 fourth-quarter points allowed the Panthers to stay in it.
Then there was the game winner.
    “Leaders (step up) when it’s time for them to step up,” said Panther coach Jeff Brannen. “(Terrell) did a good job in the fourth quarter of denying (Buchannon) — doubling him and getting the ball out of his hands. The ball has to be in David’s hands because he creates everything. He can score, plus he can make the good pass.”
    There were four lead changes leading up to the final play.
    Trailing 63-62 with 46.1 seconds to go, Portal’s Dan Farris was sent to the line for two foul shots. Farris only had three points before that, and was 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. He sunk them both. It was a scenario he had pictured before.
    “I thought about it a long time ago, what I would do,” said Farris, whose go-ahead free throw kissed off the glass.
As for the banked shot?
    “I called it,” he said.
    Terrell responded with a Brandon Browner 3-pointer, and Portal’s Chris Sapp tied it up at 65, laying it in with 13 seconds to go. The Greenwave’s attempt to retake the lead was off, and Justin Raymond tipped the rebound to Buchannon, who took it the length of the court for the win.
    It wasn’t always so close.
    After a first quarter that saw three lead changes and two ties, the teams were knotted at 12 headed into the second. A 13-2 run helped put Portal up 36-24 at the break, and it started the third period on a 12-4 run to go up 48-28.
    Terrell called a timeout with 3:46 left in the third, and picked up the intensity from there, holding the Panthers scoreless for 4:56 and going on a 15-4 run into the final frame.
    The Greenwave tied the game with 2:29 left, and there were four more lead changes to finish the game.
    “Terrell County wasn’t Region (1-A) champs for nothing,” said Brennen. “They were going to make a run. They took us out of our half-court offense, they were denying David and we turned the ball over some. We’ve got to do a better job boxing out. If we ever could figure that out, well, it hurt us down the stretch and they scored a lot of points.”
    With TCHS trailing 61-59 with 1:15 remaining, it regained the lead on a James McGill 3. He was fouled, but he missed the attempt. After an offensive rebound by Quintravis Benjamin and another missed shot, Sapp got the rebound to set up Farris’ trip to the line.
    Brannen was pleased his team did not quit after the third-quarter letdown
    “Our guys could have given in when we lost that 20 point lead and just said, ‘It’s over with,’” said Brannen. “But we didn’t, and that’s the sign of a good team.”
    In a game of star performances, it was only fitting that seven players reached double digits in points.
    Martavious Yarbrough (15 points, eight rebounds), McGill (14 points), Benjamin (12 points) and Browner (10 points), all reached doubles for Terrell and, along with Buchannon, Shane Reese (14 points) and Mario Farris (10 points) were on the board for the Panthers.
    Portal advances to the Final Four, where it will take on the winner of Whitefield Academy and Hancock Central who play today at 8:30 p.m. at Georgia Highlands.

Lady Greenwave 45, Savannah Co. Day 38
    The Savannah Country Day Lady Hornets saw any hope for a state championship disappear as the Terrell County Lady Greenwave advanced to the GHSA Class A Final Four with a 45-38 win at Columbus State University Friday.
    The Hornets were within five points throughout the contest, until the end when they were forced to resort to fouls.
    Terrell’s Monshay Thomas led all scorers with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, and Shaylia Jester added 15 from the post.
    Country Day took the lead with 3:05 to go in the game on a Melissa Burkhamer jumper, but Jester got the lead right back for TCHS with a layup plus one, and the Hornets never recovered.
    Katelyn Hilliard led Savannah Country Day with 15 points — nine from behind the arc — and Katherine Dotson put up 10.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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