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FMB AOTW: Raymond does it with D for Portal
Thomas a fantastic freshman for SHS
Justin Raymond, a senior guard at Portal, held opponent’s leading scorers to 13.3 points per game in Portal’s four postseason games. - photo by Staff

    Thanks to Portal’s Justin Raymond, the leading scorers on opposing teams have been shut down throughout the region playoffs and into state.
    While the other guys are taking care of the Panther’s point total, Raymond is making sure that the other team’s leading scorer has his hands full.
    “Justin has been playing for me for four years,” said PHS coach Jeff Brannen. “He’s gotten better each year and he’s a big part of this team. I think he’s more the glue that holds us together on the defensive end.
    “Any time you can go out there and contain players that average 18-20 points a game and hold them under doubles, or maybe 10-12 points, he’s doing his job. The other players just feed off of him. When he turns his D up, the other players turn their D up.”
    With Raymond matching up the with opposition’s go-to guy, the Panthers have seen team after team struggle against them throughout the postseason.
    In the region 3-A semifinals, Calvary’s leading scorer was held to just 10 points — well under his 24 points-per-game average. Washaun Ealey, Emanuel County’s top guard put up just four in the region championship.
    So far in the GHSA Class A state playoffs, Raymond has remained consistent. After exploding in the first half to keep Seminole County in the game in the first round, Indian leading scorer Tavius Williams managed only 10 points in the final two periods — just six from the floor. In Tuesday’s Sweet-16 matchup against Wilcox County, no scorer put up more than 12 against Raymond and the Panther defense.

Raven Thomas

   Raven Thomas is just a freshman. That’s tough news for her competition.
    “We heard about (Thomas) when she was in middle school and I saw her in elementary school and we knew she’d be a fine athlete,” said Statesboro track coach Rico Campbell. “She’s one of the hardest workers on the team — she kind of stands out.”    
    Thomas runs the 400-meter, 200m, 100m relay, 400m relay and participates in the long jump. Last week at Windsor Forest she placed first in the 400 and long jump and anchored the 400-meter relay team which also finished first.
    “Her first meet she ran the 400 and basically had no competition,” said Campbell. “She didn’t let up and almost passed out after the race.”
    Thomas said a big influence for her is her mom, a former track athlete herself. She enjoys track for the obvious reason
    “I’m pretty good at it,” she said. “Plus I have my mom hear to really motivate me and push me.”
    Thomas said her goal is to break the 400-meters in 55 seconds. She’s at 61 seconds right now.
    “With some hard work, conditioning and training — I’m pretty sure I can do it,” she said.