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Meet the Buchannon's
SHS PORTAL HOOPS 010808 363
Portal’s David Buchannon cooly steps back behind the arc and drains a 3-pointer Tuesday night at Hanner Fieldhouse against Statesboro. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    PORTAL — Things were looking worrisome for the Portal Panthers after the 2006-07 season. Leading scorer Fred Williams played his last season and the girls finished with only three wins. The Panthers were in a bind.
    That is, until the Buchannon family came to town.
    Senior David Buchannon picked up right where Williams left off, averaging 21.2 points-per-game so far and leading Portal to a 14-1 start, including a perfect 6-0 mark in Region 3-A.
    Junior Kendra has picked up the Panther bench, bringing strong outside shooting and strong defensive play for the Panthers, who have already doubled the win total from a year ago and are looking to make a run against the region’s best.
    Moving from a larger town in Indiana to a small Southeast Georgia town may sound like a challenge, but the transition has been a smooth one for the siblings.
    “Sometimes, you worry about the other guys accepting you,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen about Buchannon’s quick adjustment. “He’s new, and they’ve been playing (together for) three or four years. He came in and fit in with the other guys, and he’s just taken over. He leads by example, and they follow, because they know if they are open, they’re going to get the ball and he’s going to make the right decision on the court.”
    Kendra has also had no trouble fitting in with her teammates and classmates.
    “I like it (here in Portal),” said Kendra. “It’s different, but I like it. The people are nice. (At first) I was worried (about fitting in), but we all get along.”
    “I couldn’t tell the difference whether she was new here on not,” said Lady Panther assistant Olivia Stearcke, who is also in her first year in Portal. “The relationship (with the other players) is good as far as I can tell. I really didn’t know anything about Portal before I got here, so I started from scratch.”
    Stearcke is pleased with what she has seen out of Kendra, especially due to the fact that the young Lady Panthers need the juniors, freshmen and sophomores to step up and have an impact.
    “Her shot is probably one of the best on the team. … In Metter, she turned the game around for us,” Starcke said, “by shooting really well and getting the ball inside. Her role as a bench player is pretty big for us.”
     It is not too hard to see David’s impact as a senior. He has been playing basketball since the sixth grade, and his experience has served the Panthers well.
    “He runs the offense,” said Panther coach Jeff Brannen. “He’s a staple on offense and he’s really consistant from night to night. He gets everyone involved. Some nights he looks to pass first, but when the time comes and we need a basket, he’s going to take over a game. When the time comes, we want the ball in his hands because he’s a good free-throw shooter.”
    Things are a lot different in Southeast Georgia than they were in Indiana, and the Buchannons were surprised by the level of competition.
    “It’s a lot different down here,” said Kendra. “The teams we play are a lot harder. I think the girls down here are better. Up north, we didn’t have much of a challenge. The teams around us (were) smaller.”
    The pair has excited the town of Portal all season long, and with half a season to go, fans are optimistic about what the future holds.
    “We’re worried about one game at a time,” Brannen said. “We don’t want to look too far ahead. Hopefully when the time comes, we’ll be there. Last year was a great experience for most of the returners. They got a chance to taste the playoffs. Years before, we got beat in the first round. We finished third or fourth the last two or three years in the region and had to travel. It was something special last year, because we got a chance to host and we finally got past the first round, then got to the second round. The guys want to get back, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”

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