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Portal's state title dreams dashed in Macon
030508 PORTAL HOOPS 01
After fouling out in overtime, Portal's David Buchannon realizes the Panthers' championship run is over as the final buzzer sounds during Wednesday's 87-85 Class A semifinal loss against Hancock Central at the Macon Metroplex.
    MACON — Shane Reese’s desperation 3-point attempt in overtime hit the rim and fell away, ending the Portal Panthers’ run at a state title as the Hancock Central Bulldogs (29-2) got an 87-84 win in the Final Four of the GHSA Class A state playoffs Wednesday at the Macon Centreplex.
    The Panthers trailed by as many as 13 and did not lead again throughout the first three quarters after Mario Farris opened the game with a jumper that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
    It was all Hancock for the first three quarters. They stretched out an 11-point lead at halftime, led by the monster night of Bulldog center Kammeon Holsey, the 6-foot-7 post who had a double-double with a game-high 34 points (10 from the foul line) and 16 rebounds.
    Portal was kept in the game in large to the outside shooting of T.J. Busby, who finished the contest with 18 points — all from behind the arc — and David Buchannon, who led Portal with 26 points — 10-for-10 from the charity stripe — before fouling out in the final minutes of overtime.
    There simply was no answer defensively for HCHS guard Juntavious Stanton, who netted 24 points including three 3’s combined with the dominant post play of Holsey and 6-foot-6 James Watkins underneath.
    “We knew going into the game that they were going to get the ball inside,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “We still didn’t do a good job of boxing out, but hey — we kept scratching back, scratching back.”
    The Panthers entered the final quarter trailing by seven, and took the lead on an 11-2 run, that was capped off by a Mario Farris basket that put Portal up 64-62. The lead went back and fourth from there, but Portal had to stay in it without Farris (15 points, seven rebounds), who fouled out with under three minutes to go in regulation.
    Farris could only watch as his teammates exchanged buckets with the Bulldogs.
    “I had faith in them,” said Farris. “I know we would have won if I had been out there — we would have had a better chance. But I got faith in all of them. They showed a lot of heart coming out there.”
    The sharp shooting of Busby and Shane Reese kept the Panthers in the game. Portal retook the lead 76-74 on a Dan Farris steal and layup. Hancock went 2-of-4 from the line to tie the game going into OT.
    Buchannon scored Portal’s first two overtime points, before becoming the third Panther to foul out following Dan Farris, who joined his brother on the sideline.
    A pair of 3’s by Busby and Steven Cox were not enough to close the gap, and Hancock held on to advance to the finals.
    “I am just speechless right now,” Brannen said. “We were so close. I hate it for the seniors.”
    Portal will lose six players to graduation.
    “We’re going to miss those seniors,” said Brannen. “We’ve won 51 games over the last two years. It’s going to be hard. We’re going to miss those guys, but we can always look back. Hey, we were so close, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

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