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Disappointing ending leads to bright future
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    Saturday night in Savannah, Portal High experienced something which hadn’t happened to them to much during the 2006-2007 season: a cold shooting night.
    The Panthers, who were averaging over 60 points a game, managed only 39 against a quick Terrell County team in the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class state tournament at Savannah State University. They would go on to lose by 19, ending their season at 22-9, one of the best seasons in school history and best since 2001.
    “There can only be one state champion,” said PHS coach Jeff Brannen. “One of our goals was to make it to Macon (to the Final Four) and we fell one game short. Terrell County played solid defense. They got after us. When we had open shots we just couldn’t hit ’em. If we would have made a few of those open shots it would have opened up the inside. It was by far the worst shooting game we’ve had all season. Defensively, we played well enough to win the game.”
    Portal loses just three seniors off this year’s squad, including Fred Williams who reached the 2,000 point mark for his career earlier this season. Williams played in over 100 games for the Panthers, starting as a freshman.
    “It was a special group of seniors,” said Brannen. “Each one of them was different in their own way. I’m going to miss all of them.”
    Marquan Jackson and Ryan Williams also leave PHS. Brannen was highly complimentary of the way Jackson took over the point-guard position for Portal, becoming a “coach on the floor”.
    The Panthers started the season 7-0 and finished in third place in region 3-A during the regular season. Portal would advance to the region tournament championship game before falling to Calvary Day  in the championship game— their third loss to the Cavaliers — 74-70. Getting to the championship contest meant hosting a first-round state tournament game.
    “Being able to host a state playoff game (was special),” said Brannen. “This was a special team because in the 16 years I’ve been here we haven’t ever hosted. We did a lot of other things teams have not done.”
    Forwards Mario and Dan Farris, along with shooting forward Shane Reese and Justin Raymond are just a few key components returning for the Panthers next season.
    “I think we have a bright future. We’re going to have an experienced team with mainly juniors and seniors,” said Brannen. “I think we have the building blocks to be where we can be there every year. We have to get back and work hard during the summer so we can get back there again.”
    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9408.