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Portal boys still dealing with fallout from tussle with Treutlen
Portal Basketball
Portal's Amir Jackson slips behind the defense for an easy two points during the Panthers' home victory over Beach on Dec. 11 in Portal. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

The Portal Panthers entered last Friday’s contest with winless ECI ranked No. 4 in the state in Class-A with a perfect 5-0 record. The Bulldogs were able to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season with a 56-53 victory Friday, but the win should come with an asterisk as the Panthers played with only seven players and had four starters out after an incident Tuesday night against Treutlen County.

Portal and Treutlen County have had an intense rivalry through the years, but last week the rivalry took a turn for the worse as a hard foul toward the end of what was a pretty chippy game ended up in a melee on the floor.

Late in the game with the Panthers up 76-63, the Panthers inbounded the ball to Elijah Coleman who was hit hard by two Viking players and dropped to the floor. As the players walked to the Portal end of the floor to shoot free throws, Panther guard Jay Odom was hit from behind by two Treutlen players who proceeded to punch and kick him. 

At that point, fans from both sides started spilling onto the floor along with members of the Treutlen cheerleading team and girls' basketball team. Punches were thrown, including at least one that hit Panther coach Jeff Brannen in the face breaking his glasses. The crowd spilled into the Portal student section before some form of order was restored.

The officials on hand kicked out a number of players on both teams, including nine from Portal and approximately 15 from Treutlen County and the game ended with the score of 76-63.

Since then, arrest warrants have been handed out to fans on both sides and are expected to include members of the Treutlen County basketball team. This week, Portal athletic director Justin Chester and head coach Jeff Brannen addressed the altercation.

"Because of the physical altercations that took place on our campus at the conclusion of our varsity boys basketball game versus Treutlen County, Portal has and continues to work closely with local law enforcement to address inappropriate behavior at our recent sporting event," said Chester. "Portal won the Georgia High School Association's Sportsmanship Award for Region 3-A last school year, which honors sportsmanship of athletes, coaches, and the community. We are always looking for ways to improve our home game experiences, and we are deeply disturbed about the altercations that occurred.

“I hope that moving forward athletes and spectators can focus on supporting the students on the court for the love of the game and appreciate the opportunities we have to compete and watch sports,” said Chester. “My family and I love watching sports and we have noticed higher temperature levels and frustration at some collegiate and professional sporting events. I really hope that everyone can take a step back and find ways to be more respectful at athletic events and appreciate the circumstances and challenges that go into having athletic events. It may take many conversations from coaches, parents, and community leaders on what good sportsmanship is and what that might look like for various levels of competition, but it is certainly a must.

“There are many things that still have to be sorted out from last Tuesday and it is very unfortunate to have to deal with something like this over the holidays,” said Chester.  “I'm confident that our basketball coaches and players will show perseverance and continue to make sportsmanship a priority as we continue our season.”

“It was a very unfortunate and disturbing situation,” said Brannen. “I am very proud of the team and how they handled and conducted themselves during the melee. We do not condone this type of behavior and this is not Portal High. We strive to be first class in whatever we do.”

The Panthers were scheduled to play in a tournament this week in which Treutlen County was supposed to play immediately afterward. Because of this, the Panthers opted not to play in the tournament. They are also scheduled to play Treutlen next month, and as of now that game has been canceled.

The next scheduled game for the Portal boys is against Washington-Wilkes in Statesboro High’s Gentlemen’s Classic next Tuesday at 6 p.m.