The Portal Panthers swept a key region doubleheader with their neighbors from down Highway 80 knocking off ECI Friday night in Portal with the girls beating the Bulldogs 41-30, and the boys winning the nightcap 56-49.
The Portal boys improved their overall record to 5-2 on the season with a 56-49 win in a game that went back and forth throughout. The two teams who know each other quite well, battled back and forth the entire game. The Bulldogs had a 9-0 run in the first half that helped them to a two-point first half lead, while the Panthers added a 9-0 run themselves late in the third quarter into the fourth that helped put the game away.
“Every time we play ECI it is a grind it out game,” said Portal Coach Jeff Brannen. ‘Things weren’t going our way, but what I liked is they kept fighting. I feel like we won this game on the defensive end. When you play ECI you have to get physical, and I feel like we did that well tonight. We switched up our defense in the second half, and that adjustment worked out well.”
Pressure defenses by both teams saw foul trouble become a factor. The Panthers ended up shooting 19-36 from the line, while the Bulldogs were 3-9.
The talented trio of freshmen Elijah Coleman, Joseph Thomas and Amir Jackson lead the way once again. Coleman topped all scorers with 26 points, Thomas had 20 points, and Jackson added 10 points. ECI was led by Kris Jackson with 15 points, while Kobi Allen added 12 points.
A low scoring first quarter saw the game tied 8-8, The Panthers threatened to pull away going up 19-12 on a hoop and foul by Coleman with 4:25 left in the second. The Bulldogs came back going on a 9-0 to grab a 23-21 lead at the half.
In the second half the Panthers led 47-40, only to see the Bulldogs come back to cut the lead to 48-47 on a steal and a layup by Reggie Blockett. Portal was able to break the Bulldog full court pressure down the stretch getting some easy baskets in transition by Coleman and Thomas.
“They are freshmen, but they’ve played with each other for a while and have good chemistry,” said Brannen. “I’m frustrated with the way we shot free throws, but I liked the way we battled tonight.”
The Lady Panthers won their second straight Friday night as they built a big lead, and then held on to win 41-30. Portal was able to open up a 34-18 lead at the end of the third quarter, only to see the Bulldogs go on a 14-4 run to cut the lead to six on a NuTuri Smith basket with 1:33 to go in the game. Portal was able to slow things down though, and hit some key free throws by Akela Williams in improving to 2-5 on the season.
“We picked up a win Tuesday and I really feel like that confidence carried over into tonight's game,” said Portal Coach Huey Williams. “We had a couple good practices this week and I really feel like we had some depth out there as we got our flag football girls back.”
The key to game may have been the opening period as the Panthers outscored the Bulldogs 17-4. Shaneisha Coleman and Raashonda Khalil combined for 2 points in the quarter, and the Panthers played well on the defensive side of the ball. Portal managed only two baskets in the second quarter, but turned it on again in the third as they outscored ECI 13-6.
“We finally came out and took a lead and managed to keep the lead,” said Williams. “We rebounded the ball a lot better than we have all season, and we played good team defense. We held a big lead and then almost let it slip away by taking some shots to quickly, but we called a time out and they listened to what we said.”
Portal was led by Coleman and Khalil who each scored 10 points. Smith led the Bulldogs with 14 points.
Next up for the Panthers they host Toombs County Saturday with the girls tipping off at 6:00