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Fast start helps Panthers down Southeast Bulloch
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    BROOKLET — Portal forced the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets (0-4) to play catch-up for three quarters as it outscored SEB 18-0 in the first quarter and held on for a 55-44 road win Tuesday.
    Double-digit scorers James Scott (13 points) and Tony Raymond (12 points) helped bring the Jackets to within six points in the third quarter, but the 18-point hole proved too much to overcome.
    The Panthers (2-0) got off to a quick start as they spread the ball around to five different players, jumping ahead 10-0 and forcing Southeast Bulloch to call a timeout and regroup just 2:45 into the game.
    Defensively, Portal only allowed seven SEB shots and out-rebounded the Jackets 8-1 in the first period.
    “I though we came out and executed well,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “We ran our half-court sets and held them scoreless the first quarter. I thought defensively we played a good ballgame in the first quarter. (In the) second quarter, we kind of let them creep back in because they hit some easy shots.”
    Southeast Bulloch tried to turn the tables on PHS in the second quarter. Just 23 seconds in, Anthony Cope hit a 3-pointer to end the SEB scoring drought. The Jackets held Portal to only four second-quarter points and trailed 22-11 at halftime.
    The Jackets made a game of it when they finished off the third with a 10-4 run and entered the fourth trailing just 38-30, but the Panthers were 9 of 10 from the foul line and — despite being out-rebounded 4-1 in the final 3:40 — held on to secure the win. Portal managed to keep SEB away from the foul line despite Mario Farris (14 points, 10 rebounds) fouling out and SEB having the bonus the entire fourth quarter.
    “We’ve still got to work on some things in practice,” said Brannen about the second-half foul trouble. “We’ll work on our defensive pressure and work on moving our feet. Hopefully, we’ll get better with each game. I think we improved from the first game defensively. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re working on it every day.
    “We’ve got to work on rebounding, too. They out-rebounded us there at the end, but I was really proud the way we controlled the ball there at the end of the game and hit our free throws when they counted.”
    David Buchannon led all scorers with 15 points and Steven Cox and Jordan Hall each added eight.

Lady Panthers 31,
Lady Jackets 29
    The Southeast Bulloch Lady Yellow Jackets led by three with 1:59 to go, but the Portal shot 4 of 5 from the line in the final 1:30, and a pair of late SEB turnovers allowed the Lady Panthers to escape with a 31-29 win Tuesday.
    “I think a lot of the pressure got to them,” said first-year SEB coach Mark Smith. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been in that position. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to work through. At the end I think they started to.tense up a little bit, and it cost us the ballgame.”
    The Panthers (3-0) were without leading scorer Cassandra McBride — a senior transfer from Statesboro High — who missed the game due to an ankle sprain.
    “McBride is a big impact on the team,” said Portal coach Earl Donaldson. “You could see that tonight. She’s averaging 13 points per game, about six rebounds and six assists. We came out flat, and I think we missed her tonight.”
    Sacona Sheffield took an assist from Bridgett Oglesby at the top of the key to sink a 3 with 1:53 to play and knot the game at 27.
    Kanesha Eason led PHS with seven points, and her late steal with the game tied allowed her to sink two free throws with 1:27 to go put the Panthers up for good.
    Kacey Jones led SEB with eight points and 15 rebounds. Jones and Ashley Clifton combined for 24 rebounds and seven blocks.
    The Jackets out-rebounded Portal 36-30.
    “One of the things that killed us (at first) was lack of inside defense and lack of rebounding,” said Smith. “We really focused on that this week, and I think it’s starting to pay dividends.”
    The Jackets return to action on Friday when they travel to Claxton for a non-region matchup, and Portal heads to Screven County on Saturday. The girls’ games tip off at 6:30 p.m. and the boys start at 7:30.

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