The Portal Panthers swept a doubleheader with the visiting Johnson County Trojans in a rare Monday night matchup. The girls were paced by a career high 35 points from senior Keely Thomas as they won 65-29. The boys completed the sweep behind a career best 40 points by Brian Ware knocking off the Trojans 70-51.
Over the past few years the Lady Panthers have gone a few games without scoring over 25 points. Monday night senior post player Keely Thomas had 27 points in the first half.
Thomas started off hot with eight points in the first quarter, and then erupted for 19 points in the second quarter. Most of Thomas’ points came off rebounds and putbacks, as her athleticism easily overpowered the Trojan frontcourt.
“We knew coming in we would have an advantage in the post,” said Portal coach Huey Williams. “Keely started off pretty good, and then we just kept trying to get her the ball. When she decides to take over like she did tonight when is tough to stop.”
Williams and his coaching staff have been awaiting a night like this from Thomas, who has shown flashes before, but has yet to put things together.
“It’s been kind of frustrating with Keely to be honest,” Williams said. “We know what kind of player she is, but sometimes she just hasn’t had faith in herself. I hope this is the kind of game that gets her going and she can keep her confidence going.”
Thomas wasn’t the only Panther post player to have a good game, as Tierra Lee chipped in 11 points as well.
“When our post can come through like they did tonight we are pretty tough to beat.” Williams said. “I feel like playing tough competition like we have early in the season is really starting to pay off. Our girls are used to playing against some good talent, and now we are taking care of teams we should be beating.”
Portal improves to 3-5 on the season. Thomas led the way with 35, and Lee had 11. The Trojans were paced by Shamya Ervan with 13 points.
The Portal boys started the season winning four straight, but have hit a skid recently, as they dropped two in a row. Monday night the Panthers found themselves down 32-26 at the half, but bounced back behind 25 second half points by Brian Ware as they won 70-51
“We really battled out there tonight,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “I am proud of the way our kids responded to being down like that at the half. That was a big one for us.”
Trailing by six at the half the Panthers started to scrap back in the second half primarily on the defensive side of the court. Portal big man 6-6 Fred Spells wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, but ended up with 12 blocked shots, nine coming in the second half.
With Spells controlling the paint, Ware was able to get ahead of the pack converting on many fastbreak layups. Ware was also hot from outside, as he scored six three pointers, and at the line where he connected on 12-14 from the line.
“That’s what we need from Brian Ware,” said Brannen. “He is a scorer, and we need him to score. We were playing without senior Dax Reddick, and we needed Brian to step up and he did that tonight.”
Ware helped key a second half run that saw the Panthers outscore the Trojans 44-19.
“His teammates look up to him for leadership,” Brannen said. “I feel like tonight was a big step for Brian as he answered the call when we needed him.”
Portal improves to 5-2 on the season. Up next the Panthers host ECI Friday at 6 p.m.