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Panthers survive SCD scare
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    PORTAL — Mario Farris sank a pair of free throws with 6.3 seconds to go to put the Portal Panthers (19-1, 10-0 Region 3-A) up by three and force Savannah Country Day to attempt a desperation 3-pointer as time ran out to maintain their unbeaten region record and take home a 61-58 win against the Hornets Saturday.
    Savannah Country Day got the ball to David Toraya on the last possession of the game but his attempt to tie it with his fourth 3-pointer of the night clanged off the back of the rim and skipped out of bounds as time ran out.
    The Panthers led 27-26 at halftime, but SCDS tied the game on a Toraya 3 just :42 into the third. They took the lead on a Zach Samuels bucket, and Portal trailed until there were 33 seconds to go in the game and David Buchannon drove the lane and layed it in to put PHS up 59-58.
    The Hornets led by five heading into the fourth, and Portal allowed them to lead by as many as nine in the period.  
    “(We had) dead legs from last night,” said Portal assistant coach Tendai Haggins, “a tough game down at Calvary. It was kind of the same situation in the first half — they play that 1-3-1 defense. We got a little impatient, didn’t move the ball around and took quick shots. In the second half, we got the ball to the inside and got some easy buckets.”
    The Panthers scored 10 unanswered points to close out the contest.
    Farris and Buchannon, Portal’s leading scorers, were held in check for much of the first half. The pair combined for only six points in the first two quarters of play, but racked up a combined 19 in the fourth. Haggins was pleased with the way the seniors took charge of the game.
    “They don’t want to lose it. They don’t want to be the one to make a mistake,” Haggins said. “As coaches, we say, ‘Step up. Do what you’re coached to do. Let the offense come to you. Don’t try to rush, don’t try to press. Just let the game come to you.’ And we got some easy layups that got us right back in the ballgame.”
    Buchannon started the final scoring run with a strip and a layup, followed by two more quick points. Country Day’s Patrick Blackburne attempted to end the rally by going for a baseline layup, but Farris blocked the shot and Buchannon found him at the other end for two more. A T.J Busby rebound gave the ball to Buchannon so he could sink one more and put Portal up for good.
    After another Buchannon lay-in, Farris knocked the ball loose and Buchannon picked it up, forcing three-consecutive Hornet fouls before finally putting PHS in the bonus, when Farris sealed the win with his foul shots.
    Savannah Country Day knocked down eight 3-pointers in the contest, and were led in scoring by Bradley Jones’ 15. Toraya added 13, including three 3s.
    Buchannon finished the contest with 15 points, and Farris notched a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds). Busby and Justin Raymond each had nine points and eight rebounds.
    The Panthers go out of region play when they host Richmond Hill at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, then attempt to finish the perfect region record with games against Jenkins County and at Emanuel County institute, before finishing the season with rematches against Richmond Hill and the season finale against Statesboro at Southeast Bulloch’s new gym on Feb. 9.

Lady Hornets 52, Lady Panthers 25
    The Savannah Country Day Lady Hornets — ranked No. 2 in the GHSA Class A coach’s poll — rolled over the Portal Lady Panthers as they attacked the lanes and got a 52-25 win Saturday in Portal.
    The Hornets (19-2, 9-0 Region 3-A) got off to a hot start, sinking10 of their 17 first-half shots and jumping ahead to a quick 24-7 halftime lead. The Hornets dominated the boards as well, out-rebounding the Panthers 16-5 in the first two quarters.
    Portal (9-11, 3-7) shot only 3-of-13 from the field in the first half and was just 1-of-6 from the charity stripe.
    “We followed our game plan,” said Portal coach Earl Donaldson. “The only thing that wasn’t working for us for a couple of quarters was that we couldn’t get any shots to fall.”
    The Panthers came out shooting in the third quarter, closing the gap to 13 on the strength of a six-point run in which Jalesia Coleman sank four of her 10 points. They would finish the third on a 7-of-9 clip from the floor.
    Despite grabbing eight steals in the game, PHS could not keep up with the Savannah Country Day shooting. The momentum from the third did not carry over as the Panthers were held scoreless in the fourth quarter, although the Portal defense held SCDS to just 11 in the final period.
    “We played good defense there for a couple of quarters,” Donaldson said, “but we have to play four quarters. We’ve got to play a complete game, and the seniors have got to step up.”
    Katherine Dotson led the Hornets with 19 points and hauled in six rebounds. Melissa Burkhamer helped out from the post with 16 points.
    Coleman and Kanesha Eason each had 10 points for the Panthers. Portal returns to action on Tuesday when it hosts Richmond Hill at 6 p.m.

    The Portal Panthers JV team (7-2) added to the win column Saturday with a 54-46 win over the Savannah Country Day Hornets JV team.
    Portal built on a 38-34 lead that started the fourth quarter, and was able to hold off the aggressive Hornet attack.
    Savannah Country Day’s William Stewart led all scorers with 16 points and Morgan Clemm added 14 for the Hornets.
    Devin Leach led the Panthers with 15 points and was followed up by Michael Reese who netted 10.
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.