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Portal splits pair of region contests with Jenkins County
Prep Basketball
Portal's Joseph Thomas, right, sinks a fadeaway jumper over multiple Jenkins County defenders during the first quarter on Friday, Jan. 20. In a matchup of Top-10 teams in the GHSA 1-A rankings, Portal sent a strong message. The Panthers pulled ahead early and Thomas scored his 1,000th career point in Portal's dominating 73-50 victory.

The No. 3 ranked Portal Panther split a pair of games with Jenkins High School Friday night. The Lady Panthers dropped a 38-28 decision while the boys knocked off the visiting Eagles by a score of 73-50. 

Playing before a sold-out crowd with standing room only, the Panthers jumped out to an early lead and never really looked back. The Eagles typically play the Panthers tough home and away, but they couldn’t withstand the Panther three headed monster of Amir Jackson, Joseph Thomas and Elijah Coleman who combined to outscore the entire Eagles team as they had 54 points. 

“Any time we get together with those guys you can throw the records out,” said Panther coach Jeff Brannen. “It is always going to be a tough game and they are always physical. I told the guys coming in they are going to play that way and we just need to play basketball. I thought we responded well when they made a couple little runs. We still have things to work on but I liked the way we played tonight.” 

The Panthers jumped out to a 20-9 first quarter lead and increased that to 37-22 at the half. The Eagles did a good job of hitting the boards to get within nine points mid-way through the third quarter, but the Panthers went on a 12-2 run to put things out of hand as they led 53-37 at the end of the third. They outscored Jenkins County 20-13 in the fourth quarter. 

“We are always going to lean on our big three, but our bench came through with big minutes again tonight,” said Brannen. "Guys like Tucker Chester and Bryce Clifton come in with instant energy. I thought Jo really shot the ball well, Amir played tough inside and Elijah scored when he needed to but continues to be a great facilitator out there.” 

Thomas led the way with 20 points while Jackson and Coleman each scored 17 points. Portal improves to 16-1 overall and 4-0 in region play. 

The Portal Lady Panthers dug themselves a 14-5 halftime deficit and were down by as many as 20 points in the third quarter. Despite going on a 16-8 run from there it was just too much for the Panthers to overcome as they lost 38-28. 

The Panthers battled back thanks in large part to heating up from behind the arc as they had five three pointers in the second half. Coach Huey Williams was happy with the effort, but knows they can’t get off to that kind of start in the future. 

“We had a really bad end to our practice yesterday and unfortunately carried that into the start of the game tonight,” said Williams. “From about the middle of the third quarter till the end of the game I feel like we played like we are capable of playing and that gives me some hope as we continue region play next week.” 

The Lady Panthers were led by Millie Kingsberry and Glen Lowe who each had nine points. Portal drops to 3-13 and 0-4 in region play. Up next Portal hosts Screven County with the girls’ game starting at 3:30.