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Panthers beat up on Jenkins County
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    MILLEN — The Portal Panthers (13-1, 5-0 Region 3-A) picked up their fifth-straight region win as they jumped out to a 19-point, first-quarter lead and never looked back, toppling the Jenkins County Eagles 85-39 on the road Friday night.
    The Panthers saw minutes from all 13 players on the roster. Leading 66-25 midway through the third quarter, the starters took a seat to get the bench some valuable playing time. Eight Panthers reached the scoreboard in the contest.
    “It’s always good when everyone on the team can get into the game,” said Panther coach Jeff Brannen. “They practice like the starters do and they put their time in. It’s always a plus when you can come out and close out a team in the third quarter and sub and play your other guys.”
    The Eagles scored only two points in the game’s first 5:10, and trailed PHS 28-9 after a quarter of play. The Panthers did not let up, securing a 56-25 halftime lead.
    Jenkins County threatened in the second, going on a 12-3 run in which they out-rebounded Portal 5-0, highlighted by 3-pointers from Akeem Young and Tim Patterson, but a pair of David Buchannon 3s slowed the Eagle run.
    “We’ve still got some things we need to work on,” Brannen said. “We need to work on our defense. Our ball pressure wasn’t there tonight, and our rebounding — we need to be more solid on the defensive end and play tougher defense.”
    Portal re-grouped and ended the half out-scoring the Eagles 20-4. The half ended on a high note for JCHS as Patterson drilled his second 3 of the game at the buzzer.
    The Panthers ignited the Portal crowd when they opened the scoring in the third quarter on a Buchannon ally-oop to Mario Farris. The ball lofted behind Farris’ head but he was able to reach back with one hand and finish the dunk.
    After a 10-0 run, Brannen emptied his bench to finish the final quarter-and-a-half.
    Farris finished the contest with a double-double (27 points, 12 rebounds), including 22 first-half points. Other double digit scorers were T.J. Busby (16 points), Justin Raymond (10 points) and Buchannon (10 points).
    The added minutes for the bench could not have come at a better time for the Panthers, as they prepare for a tough two-game stretch. Portal will host Emanuel County Institute — who returns all its starters from its 2006-07 Region 3-A Championship team — tonight with a 6 p.m. tipoff for the girls and a 7:30 start for the boys.
    Portal follows that game up with a trip to Georgia Southern’s Hanner Fieldhouse Tuesday to take on the Statesboro Blue Devils. Tickets will be $7 and are good for the 4:30 p.m. JV game and the girls’ (6 p.m.) and boys’ (7:30) games that follow.

Lady Eagles 54,
Lady Panthers 48
    The Portal Lady Panthers (7-6, 2-3 Region 3-A) trailed by as many as 14 points and tied the game with 5:37 remaining, but the late comeback effort fell short as the Jenkins County Lady Eagles (5-12) pulled one out in the end, topping PHS 54-48 Friday in Millen.
    “We started slow in the first half,” said Portal coach Earl Donaldson, “and we played flat. In the second half, we settled down and put a little pressure on them. We should have won the ball game. We didn’t play up to our expectations tonight.”
    The Panthers trailed 41-27 with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter, but went on an eight-point run to end the period and kicked off the fourth with a 7-1 run capped off by a Mary Cox free throw that tied the game at 42-42.
    Jenkins responded with a run of its own as Tashe McClain sank four-straight buckets to lead the Eagles as they out-scored PHS 10-4 before calling a timeout with 2:50 to go.
    Portal never recovered as they resorted to fouling and Nicole Smith sank two free throws to seal the Eagle victory.
    Smith racked up 19 points including three 3-pointers, while McClain led all scorers with 21 points. Her 12 rebounds gave her the game’s only double-double.
    Jalesia Coleman led the Panthers with 17 points from the post and Sacona Sherffield added 10.

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