The Portal Panthers split a pair of games in their season opener against Johnson. The Panther girls dropped a hard-fought 59-53 decision to the Atom Smashers 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 Portal 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.