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Portal Hoops splits with MCA
Portal Basketball
Portal's Devonta Brown, center, goes coast-to-coast and splits McIntosh County defenders Trevon Thorpe, right, and Elijah Jason for a score during the third quarter Friday. Three Panthers scored at least 10 points as the team effort earned them a 66-48 victory in a region contest that came on the heels of a midweek road region win at Savannah Christian.

The Portal Panthers continued their most recent win streak Friday night at home as they improves to 11-8 overall and 4-2 in region play, as Portal defeated the visiting Buccaneers of McIntosh County Academy 66-48.

The Panthers started the season red hot winning six straight. The wheels then started to come off as Portal lost six of their next seven games, but they seem to have righted the ship winning three of their last four, including Friday’s impressive victory over the visiting Bucs.

“We have been stressing playing tough man to man defense, and our defense sets the tone,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “They are still kids and they tend to think if the offense isn’t clicking they don’t have to play defense, but we have been working on that, and it’s starting to pay off.”

Once again the recipe for a Panther victory started on the defensive side of the floor. Portal’s pressure got to McIntosh early and often, as Buccaneer turnovers resulted in easy Panther baskets.

Portal jumped out to a 12-6 lead, McIntosh fought back to cut the lead to two, the Panthers got a couple buckets inside by K.J. Hayes and the score was tied 17-17 at the end of the first.

In the second the Panthers started to pull away. Point guard Devonta Brown hit a three pointer, and went coast to coast after a pair of steals. Guard Connor Washington added a pair of three pointers, and a layup himself.

Portal pulled out to a 34-27 lead at the half, and would only add to that lead in the second half.

The Panther defense clamped down in the third quarter as they limited the Bucs to only two field goals and a total of five points.

On the offensive end the Panthers continued to turn their pressure into easy layups. Hayes had eight more of his team high 16 in the third, and Portal led 50-32 at the end of three quarters of play.

Brian Ware capped things off for the Panthers on the fourth. Ware hit a three pointer and finished the break with a pair of layups, part of his 12 points in the game, as the Panthers wound up winning by 18 points.

“I think right now the chemistry of the team is getting pretty good,” Brannen said. “We are late in the season, but there are some correctable errors we are still making, that if we can fix, I think I will feel much better.”

Portal was led by Hayes with 16 points. Connor Washington added 15, and Ward had 12. Trevon Thorpe led the Bucs with a game high 26 points.

Lady Bucs 46,   Lady Panthers 39

The Portal Lady Panthers actually held a 33-28 lead at the end of the third quarter, but an unfortunate series of events gave McIntosh County Academy some momentum, and a 16-5 run was just too much to come back from as Portal fell 46-39 Friday night at home.

With the Panthers trailing 27-21 at the half, Portal played arguably their best quarter of basketball this season. Kolbie Motes fired a three pointer, and hit two other long range two pointers. Destiny Brown added a layup and was three for four from the line.

The Panthers also played inspired basketball on the defensive end of the court, and turned a six point deficit into a five point advantage at the end of the third.

The wheels came off quickly in the fourth. The Bucs' Jasmine Williams missed a pair of free throws, but on the rebound Destiny Brown seemed confused, and quickly put the ball back in the basket, resulting in two points for the Bucs, and cutting the lead to 33-31.

From there the Panthers looked defeated, and the Bucs went on their 16-2 run to put things away.

“That play on the other end really turned the momentum around,” said Portal coach Cliff Hubbard. “We are up by four, they miss two free throws, and then (Brown) had a mental mistake, and they are within two. Keely Thomas also picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth and things kind of snowballed.”

Williams, who did not play at all in the first half, sparked the Bucs comeback in the fourth quarter. Williams scored 10 points, and was 6-6 from the line on the fourth, while the Panthers managed a total of only six points in the fourth quarter.

“We really just need to learn how to win, just learn how to close things out,” Hubbard said. “We had plenty of positives, including playing good defense. We played better but we need to take the next step, and that is winning one of these close games.”

Keely Thomas led the Panthers with nine points, while Motes added seven. Williams led McIntosh with 10 points.

Portal falls to 3-14 overall and 1-5 in region play. Up next Portal hosts Savannah Country Day Tuesday at 6:00.