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Portal's season one to remember

    Emotions ran high after Shane Reese’s 3-point attempt at the closing seconds of the 2007-08 Portal basketball season fell short.
    With that final buzzer, the Panthers saw their hopes of a GHSA Class A state championship stall in overtime of the Final Four against Hancock Central.
    Players, coaches and fans (presumably the entire town of Portal, as well as a chunk of folks from the surrounding areas) were in a state of shock as they sat in silence at the Macon Centreplex, realizing that the season was over.
    That was Wednesday.
    Hopefully over these past four days, Portal has had some time to reflect on how special the past season really was.
    It ended in a fitting fashion, coming down to the wire in overtime. Three starters sat on the bench, emotionally and physically drained after reaching five fouls.
    Nobody quit, however, and it makes sense that a season filled with so much excitement came down to the final shot.
    The run may have come to a premature end in the minds of everyone involved with the Panther program, but it was a season that none of them will soon forget. From the opening tip until the final horn 31 games later, the season was filled with memories that Portal will take with it forever.

Portal 55, Southeast Bulloch 44
    The Panthers set the tone for the season in the early going. They took a trip across the county to Brooklet to take on Southeast Bulloch. It took more than a quarter for SEB to score, as the Panthers led 18-0 after a quarter of play.
    The Jackets proved resilient, as they would all season long, closing the gap to as close as 38-30, but spot-on foul shooting and relentless scoring, matched with the tough defense, preserved the win for PHS. It would be a preview of things to come for the Panther D.

Portal 76, Screven County 75
    Just four days after the SEB game, the Panthers got their first test. The Screven County Gamecocks trailed by as many as 16, but Fabolous Mills, Jamez Colbert and Antrjuan Albright made sure it was going to be a game.
    The Panthers trailed 75-74 with the clock fast approaching 0:00, but David Buchannon drove into the paint, whipped the rock out to an open Steven Cox, and Cox nailed a jumper for the last-second win.
    If Portal set the defensive tone of the season against SEB, it foreshadowed some things about its offense in the Screven win. Buchannon finished with 23 points.
    “It came down to the wire, and we put the ball in David Buchannon’s hands,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen after the win. “We knew he was either going to make the shot or make something happen.”
    Sounds familiar.

Portal 55, Statesboro 52
    If Portal hadn’t proved to be the real deal yet, it had the chance in front of about 3,000 fans in Georgia Southern’s Hanner Fieldhouse against the future Region 3-AAAA Champions, the Statesboro Blue Devils.
    It was yet another game that came down to the last shot, and needless to say, the Panthers proved their point.
    This was a good basketball team, and Bulloch County was starting to catch on. The Panthers learned from the first SHS meeting, knocking off the Devils 69-57 the next time the teams met — a game in which Buchannon had 31 points and six 3’s.

Portal 61, Savannah Country Day 58
    Portal was sitting at a cool 18-1, and were cruising through Region 3-A at a 9-0 clip. They got their first region challenge in the form of the Savannah Country Day Hornets.
    Trailing by five heading into the fourth quarter, the Panthers closed out the game on a 10-0 run, capped off by a pair of Mario Farris free throws that put them up by three to force yet another last second shot attempt.
    Country Day’s 3 was off it’s mark, and PHS won another nail biter.

Portal 56, Emanuel County 53
    Another game, another last-second finish.
    Foul shots once again put Portal up by three in the closing seconds — this time by both Farris brothers — and the opponent was once again forced into a desperation 3.
    The win gave Portal a perfect 12-0 region mark to finish the regular season.
    The Panthers would meet the Bulldogs again in the Region 3-A Championship. This time, Justin Raymond would help keep ECI’s leading scorer in check — holding Washaun Ealey to just four points, and the Panthers sailed to a 65-49 win to take home the title.
    It was playoff time.

Portal 67, Terrell County 65
    After cruising past Seminole County and Wilcox County, Portal was in the Elite Eight against the Terrell County Greenwave in Columbus, Ga.
    Panther fans watched as TCHS erased a 20-point deficit and forced — you guessed it — a last second shot.
    Buchannon’s layup at the final horn propelled the Panthers into the Final Four — uncharted territory for Portal over the last five decades. Buchannon averaged 27 points per game throughout the state playoffs.
    So there was Portal, with (of course) another down-to-the-wire finish against Hancock central, and this time, it wasn’t meat to be.
    That is no reason for the town to hang its collective head.
    In my line of work, I’ve gotten to cover exciting games in all sports from Portal, Southeast Bulloch, Srceven County, Statesboro, Metter, Jenkins County, Claxton and Georgia Southern, among many others.
    I’ve seen all of these teams at high points and low, and that’s why I do what I do.
    Covering all of the area’s teams has been a pleasure so far, and it’s runs like Portal’s that make my job even easier. There can be only one state champion, but each and every team has a chance to make its fans proud.
    If that was one of Portal’s goals, it passed with flying colors.

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

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