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Portal buries Metter
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    PORTAL — The Portal Panthers (15-1) carried the momentum from a Jan. 8 55-52 win over Statesboro into Tuesday’s game, making it rain against the Metter Tigers and sinking 10 3-pointers in a dominant 94-55 non-region win.
    David Buchannon led all scorers with 30 points, including six of the Panther 3s.
    Portal got started in a hurry, jumping ahead to a quick 16-point lead on the outside shooting of Buchannon and guard T.J. Busby. Back-to-back 3s by Buchannon forced a Metter timeout when it fell behind 14-2. After the break, Busby sank a pair of buckets, but Tiger Dillian Lawrence ended the first with a pair of 3-pointers of his own. The Tigers closed the gap to 20-10 heading into the second.
    Metter built on Lawrence’s shooting to close the gap to within seven in the second.
    “We came out and struggled a little bit there in the second quarter,” Brannen said. “We went up 18-2, and it seemed like we just let down a little bit.”
    The Panthers held a 46-30 lead when they hit the locker rooms.
    The shooting match carried into the third quarter, when the Panthers exploded for 38 points in the period, including six 3s — four by Shane Reese.
    “Metter came back and started to hit a couple of 3s against us,” said Brannen. “I think we started to play ‘Horse’ there in the third quarter — started shooting 3s.”
    Portal cleared the bench to finish out the game.
    Forward Mario Farris was neutralized throughout much of the contest, with the MHS defense favoring a 2-3 zone.     
    “We’ve got guys that can shoot, and sometimes (Farris) figures he’s not getting the ball,” said Brannen. “A lot of it had to do with Metter packing it in. He said, ‘Coach, they’ve got three guys around me.’ So I said, ‘Just be patient and let the game come to you.’ He did in the second half.”
    Farris stepped it up on defense, using his four steals and fast-break opportunities in totaling 12 points.
    Reese (19 points) and Busby (11 points, five assists) joined Farris and Buchannon in double-digits.
    Lawrence led Metter with 16 points, and Demarius Mercer added nine to accompany his six assists.
    Heading into the second half of region play starting Friday, Brannen is glad he was able to get his bench on the court.
    “Any time we can get a lead like this, we can rest some of the starters,” said the Portal coach. “The other guys practice hard too, and they deserve to play, but we’ve got to come out from the tip, and when we get a lead, we’ve got to be able to keep the foot on the pedal. We’re letting up now, and we’re letting teams creep back in. … We did not have the same intensity tonight as we did against Statesboro, and it shows.”
    Portal returns to region play Friday, hosting Bryan County. The girls tip off at 6 p.m. and the boys will follow. It hosts Claxton on Saturday.
    “(Playing) two region games back-to-back,” said Brannen, “you want to come out and make a statement early, and put teams away. … We want to be able to dictate the tempo from our defense, and we want to be able to push the ball and get easy baskets out in the open court.”

Lady Panthers 51,
Lady Tigers 39
    The Portal Lady Panthers (8-8) got behind early but — led by Kanesha Eason’s 17 points —dominated the second half and knocked off non-region opponent Metter (7-9) 51-39 Tuesday night in Portal.
    Eason also led the Panthers defensively, snagging nine steals and hauling in six rebounds in the win.
    “We’ve been hoping all year that Kanesha would step up,” said Lady Panther coach Earl Donaldson. “She did that (Tuesday) night. That was one of the plusses on offense. She scored and got the ball down low tonight.”
    The Lady Panthers came out slow, falling into a 9-0 hole before finally reaching the scoreboard 5:06 into the first quarter when Eason grabbed a rebound and put it in.
    The Lady Tigers held an eight-point advantage after a quarter of play, but Mary Cox’s lay-in with 2:27 remaining in the first half tied the game at 20. The lead changed hands four times in the second, and when Metter’s Kayone Donaldson stole it away and finished with a layup as time expired, the Tigers led 24-23 at the half.
    Portal used its aggressive full-court press to confuse the Tiger offense and grabbed a two-point lead heading into the final period.
    “We kept the pressure on them because they seemed kind of disorganized,” Donaldson said about the aggressive defensive play of the Panthers. “We kept man-to-man pressure on them the whole night.”
    The Lady Panthers picked up the defensive intensity in the final quarter, keeping the ball on their side of the court a majority of the time. Cassandra McBride drilled six points in the final period and the Panthers were able to outscore the Tigers 16-5 in the fourth.
    Eason’s 17 led all scorers, while McBride and Bridgett Oglesby each added nine. Tess Fordham led Metter with 12 points, and forward Amy Nagel contributed nine from underneath.

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