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Gentlemen's Classic tips off at SHS
Prep Basketball
Statesboro High's James Thomas, center, muscles his way through Portal's Chandler Sheffield, left, and Amir Jackson during the third quarter of Monday's game at the Gentlemen's Classic. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Earlier this month the Portal Panthers boys' basketball team jumped out to a big first half lead at Southeast Bulloch only to see the Yellow Jackets pull away in the second half. Monday night it was déjà vu for the Panthers as they opened up play in Statesboro High’s Gentlemen's Classic by building a big lead over the Blue Devils, only to see Statesboro go on a big run in the second half and pull away for a 73-55 victory


The Panthers lack of depth and their youth showed Monday as after they built a 21-8 lead on a layup by Elijah Coleman, they let the Blue Devils right back in. Statesboro heated up from outside as they buried four three pointers, and went on a 22-8 run to take a 33-31 halftime lead. 


In the second half the Blue Devils continue to pull way behind a pressure defense forcing Panther turnovers, which turned into easy Statesboro baskets. Statesboro outscored Portal 23-12 in the third quarter, eventually pulling away for good.


Statesboro head coach Keith LeGree was frustrated with the way the Blue Devils started but was pleased with the adjustments they made at halftime.


"This is unfortunately who we have been this year,” said Legree. “We come out slow and tense. I think we are focused, but I think we are trying to hard, and we are not executing our game plan. At halftime we sit down and talk about adjustments we need to make, and I remind them of our game plan, and in the second half corrected things, and played the way we need to from the beginning.” 


Portal head coach Jeff Brannen I was frustrated with the carelessness the Panthers played with in the second half but he still confident his team can rebound and learn from games like this.


“We started out pretty good, but we knew what Statesboro was going to do in the second half,” said Brannen. “They got physical with our guards, and they did a god job with their pressure. We had to work too hard for our baskets, particularly in the second half.  We need to work on rebounding better, we got killed on the boards tonight. We are a young team, and we really need to start getting better.” 


“I got some good feedback after the game from some guys who really care,” said LeGree. “We play a lot of guys, and I feel we are deep enough to play a lot of guys. This team reminds me a little of our 1991 championship team as far as having athletic guys who can run the floor and play defense. We don’t have a go to guy, so any night we could have a different guy step up to lead. Hopefully that is something that these guys can get behind and respond to.”


The Blue Devils improve to 6-1 on the season and were led in scoring by Tim Taylor who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while James Thomas added 12 points. Statesboro will play Columbia Tuesday at 7:30 as the Gentlemen’s Classic continues.


The loss drops Portal to 7-3 overall, and were led in scoring by Elijah Coleman with 16 points, while Amir Jackson added 14 points. Portal will take on Burke County in day two action Tuesday at 6:00 at the Statesboro gym.


In the earlier game Monday night Columbia beat Burke County 88-52. Julius Lymon and Kawaski Ricks each had 13 points for Columbia. Burke County was led by Bobby Little with 18 points.