By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Portal hoops split with Johnson
Prep Basketball
Portal's Amir Jackson, top, gets a forceful putback to open the scoring against Johnson on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Jackson and the Panthers outlasted the Atomsmashers in a 55-50 victory to open the 2023-24 season. The Lady Panthers weren't quite as fortunate, falling to Johnson by a count of 59-53 in their first game of the campaign. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Portal Panthers split a pair of games in their season opener against Johnson. The Lady Panthers  dropped a hard-fought 59-53 decision to the Atomsmashers while the guys held off a late run to win 55-50. 

The Portal boys showed a little rust in their first game of the season as a couple of their key players have been pretty busy on the football field.  

Amir Jackson and Elijah Coleman never came off the field during football season as they both played offense, defense and special teams for the Panthers who made a run to the second round of the state playoffs this year. Coach Jeff Brannen put them right back to work as neither came off the court for the entire 32 minutes, and after the game he wished he would have given them a little more rest. 

“That is on me tonight,” Brannen said. “Our bench is just about all freshmen without any varsity experience and I was a little hesitant to put them in. It is a long season and we will try and work those guys in a little more as we will need to try and give our starters a break as it looked like they were a little tired down the stretch.” 

The Panthers and Atom Smashers didn’t do much offensive damage in the first quarter as the two teams were tied at 7-7 and Portal went 1-12 from behind the three-point line. Portal started to heat up and pull away in the second quarter as they went on a 14-0 run to grab a 21-7 lead. Johnson came back to cut the lead to 24-13 at the half. 

In the third quarter the Panthers pulled out to a 34-17 lead, but Johnson turned up the defensive pressure and started to hit some shots as they went on an 11-5 run to end the quarter and cut the lead to 39-28. The Panther’s fatigue was evident in the fourth as they were outscored 22-16, but were able to get a few baskets from Elijah Coleman to seal the deal.  

“We only had five days to practice together before tonight and it kind of showed,” Brannen said. “I thought we played really well on defense in the first half. In the second half we didn’t do a great job of switching from man to zone defense and it wore us down some. We played well in spurts, but we need to be a little more consistent. We are playing a tough non-region schedule and these teams will only make us better.” 

Coleman led the Panthers with 19 points. Marion Tremble had 11 points and Joesph Thomas was the only other Panther in double figures with 10 points. Portal is 1-0 and will host Southeast Bulloch Friday with the girls starting at 6:00. 

The Lady Panthers showed a lot of progress in their third contest of the season, but turnovers and poor free throw shooting would do them in as they fell to Johnson 59-53. 

Under the leadership of former Georgia Southern basketball player Nicole Newton, the Panthers hung tight with Class AAA Johnson,  getting within three points with under two minutes to play, but the Panthers turned the ball over nine times on the fourth quarter, and were 1-13 from the charity stripe in the second half, which proved costly. 

“That was a physical game and I am proud of my girls for fighting till the end,” Newton said. “I felt like we stepped up to the challenge, but there are a couple of areas that we really need to work on. I think we can learn from our mistakes and I expect us to come out strong on Friday.” 

Portal was led offensively by London Blackman with a game-high 22 points. Ranshonda Khalil added 15 points for the Panthers. Johnson was paced by Malaya Wright with 15 points while Bryahnna Patton had 13 points. Portal drops to 1-2 on the season. 

SEB, Metter each claim a win

The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets split a pair of games Tuesday at home against the Metter Tigers. The boys were able to even their record at 2-2 with a 72-66 win while the girls fell hard losing 72-14 and drop to 0-1. 

Georgia Kate Anderson was honored before the game and Southeast Bulloch head coach Tony Raymond said he felt like that helped light a fire under his team who came out strong and jumped out to an early lead which he felt was one of the keys to the victory. 

“We came out strong and with great energy the first five minutes of the game,” Raymond said.  “Our boys were playing for Georgia Kate tonight and it showed. We got very complacent and lazy the second and third quarter and let Metter back in the game. Brandon Wells and Kyon Taylor kept us in the game late with key steals and stops. Late in the fourth Zach Wells and Brenden O’Dowd closed it out for us offensively.” 

It is still early in the season, but Raymond is optimistic with what he has seen so far. 

“We are still growing and learning as a team on how to win when things don’t go our way,” Raymond said. “I’m proud of how our boys finished the game, but we have a lot of work to do if want to be playing in late February.” 

Next up for Southeast Bulloch is a visit to Portal Friday night. The girls' game is set to tip off at 6 p.m.

Prep Basketball
Georgia Kate Anderson (front, center), who survived a life threatening injury earlier this year, poses with members of the Southeast Bulloch girls' basketball team prior to their game Tuesday against Metter in Brooklet. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

Lady Gators roll, but Bulloch boys fall

The Bulloch Academy Gators opened the season splitting a pair of games at home against Savannah Country Day. The girls won 55-37 and the boys fell 73-35. 

Lady Gator head coach Chandler Dennard has been hit hard by graduation the past two seasons and his youthful Gators were able to jump out to an early lead and then extended their lead in the second half paced by senior Ashantay Noble who led the Gators with 20 points. 

“Considering how many new people we had out there I thought we really played well,” Dennard said. “Obviously there are a lot of things we need to clean up over the next few weeks but I felt for a first game I liked what I saw. Ashantay did what we will need her to do to be successful and that is to play just about every position out there and be our leader on both ends.” 

Noble scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the first half as Bulloch Academy led 30-19 at the half. Kaley Cardell took over the scoring in the second half as she was able to hit for 13 of her 14 points after halftime. 

Dennard hopes his tough non-region schedule will once again pay dividends once the Gators start region play in January. 

“We are always going to try and play as many tough teams as we can to get us ready for region and hopefully state,” Dennard said. We play Brentwood, Tattnall Square and a couple GHSA teams like Southeast Bulloch and Claxton and with a young team we hope to continue to rotate players around as I like our depth this year.” 

The Lady Gators move to 1-0 on the season and next up they will travel to Mt. de Sales Academy Dec. 1 at 6:00. 

On the guy’s side of things, the Hornets pulled out to an early lead and never looked back. Bulloch Academy was led by Keonte Mayner with 10 points while Jackson Sheppard added eight points. 

Prep Basketball
Bulloch Academy senior Ashantay Noble drives in for a basket Tuesday night at Gator Alley against Savannah Country Day. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff