The Portal Panthers made quick work of the visiting Johnson County Trojans — literally — as the Panthers defeated the Trojans 55-17 in the opening round of the Region 3-A playoffs in a game that clocked in at just 58 minutes long.
One of the reasons for the length of the game was the fact that the Panthers were up 48-10 at the end of the third quarter, and the fourth quarter was shortened to just six minutes due to the lopsided score.
“It’s good to get that first win under your belt in a tournament,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “I was glad our guys got another chance to play at home. Our defense was solid throughout, and I felt like we had a couple players step up.”
Portal actually had two players who outscored the entire Johnson County team in each half. Brian Ware had 15 points in the first half, while the Trojans managed just eight points. In the second half K.J. Hayes had 12 points, while the Trojans managed just nine points.
“Brian really got us started on offense tonight,” Brannen said. “I’d like to see more points scored in the paint. I though K.J. did just that in the third quarter, but we need more consistent play in the post.”
The Panthers defense set the tone early on. Portal had seven steals in the first quarter alone. Ware scored eight straight points at one point to give Portal a 20-6 lead. Hayes then scored the next six points for the Panthers, as they took a 31-8 halftime lead.
Hayes continued to dominate in the paint in the third quarter. He would score 12 more of his game high 18 points in the third quarter, helping to extend the lead to 46-10.
Hayes led all scorers with 18 points, while Ware added 15. Johnson County had three different players score four points a piece.
Up next Portal moves on to round two of the region tournament, and will play Montgomery County at Savannah Country Day at 5:00 on Thursday. The Eagles defeated the Panthers 72-56 earlier this year. The Panthers are currently ranked 31st in the latest power polls, and will have to win out to make it to the postseason.
“This is tournament time,” said Brannen. “You have to step up and you have to play. Now is the time to be playing your best. If you get on a roll who knows, maybe we can do it.”