The atmosphere was tense as the Portal Panthers played in front of their home crowd Friday night to take on cross-town rivals Statesboro High School.
Although the Panthers had a better showing than their 73-49 loss to Montgomery County to open the season, Portal just couldn’t match up with a skilled, deep Statesboro team.
SHS (3-0, 1-0 Region 3-AAAAA) pulled away late in front of a packed house to knock off Portal (0-2), 68-40.
“We came in with a great crowd, but I told our team not to be too hype. These are the kind of games you want to play in,” Statesboro head coach Lee Hill said.
After the game, Hill said Portal’s atmosphere is the type of crowd they can expect late in the season during the playoffs.
“It was a great atmosphere. It’s great for the community and it’s great for the kids because it’s like a tournament atmosphere,” Hill said. “The crowd got into it. It wasn’t anything nasty, just good fun basketball. I enjoyed coming here and just being able to play.”
In the early stages of the game, the crowd was in for a treat. Michael Salomon, who finished the game with 22 points, got the SHS student section out of their seat with a fastbreak dunk. Cameron Harvey picked up the scoring effort as well, finishing with 18 points.
Hill said the depth and skill of his roster is what sets them apart from other teams.
“I told our players some nights it has to be a different guy. We have more than one player that can score. That’s what I like about them,” Hill said. “This is a great team that we have.”
Portal head coach Jeff Brannen praised his players for a better effort in just their second game of the season, but said missed free throws and a lack of offense was the biggest difference in the game.
“We talked before the game and we wanted to play hard every possession. We played zone because Statesboro has the height advantage on us.We had some live ball turnovers and Statesboro got layup and dunks,” Brannen said. “All three of my big guys had two or three fouls, but we were better today than we were Tuesday.”
Portal’s Darius Huff led the team in scoring with 15 points. Ronald Williams added nine points for the Panthers.
At halftime, Portal cut Statesboro’s lead to 38-29, but SHS opened the third quarter on a 14-3 run. Salomon finished the game with three dunks in transition.
“It was something that was open, so I just dunked it. It was a great game. It’s always good to get crunk for games like this,” Salomon said after his team’s third victory of the season.
Portal will play Wheeler County today after the girls game while Statesboro goes up against Liberty County.
Lady Devils 57, Lady Panthers 29
The Lady Blue Devils of Statesboro High School found themselves in a dog fight Friday night against a scrappy Portal team.
The Lady Panthers came aggressive, but SHS finished pulled away late, winning 57-29.
Dayonna Henry played key minutes for Statesboro, finishing the game with a game-high 16 points. Jaslyn Joseph added eight points for SHS while Keeba Redfield scored seven points. For Portal, the Panthers were led offensively by Chandelier Morgan and Breyonna Raymond. They scored 10 and seven respectively.
“I like the way our girls played tonight. I liked their attitude. We were able to get scrappy with a team that wanted it real bad,” said SHS girls basketball coach Jeff Seier. “I thought their girls played a real good game, but we tired them out in the second half. We just had more girls to sub-in.”
The Lady Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1 Region 3-AAAAA) outscored Portal 28-14 in the second half.
At the end of the first quarter, both teams were tied 11-11, but Henry wouldn’t be denied and helped her team earn a victory.
“We did a good job and hustled hard. I was getting a lot of layups and steals,” Henry said after the game. “Everybody did good and we worked as a team.”
Turnovers hurt the Lady Panthers (1-1) in the second half, but Portal came close to cutting into SHS’s lead. With 4:35 left to play in the game, Portal trailed by just 10 points, 38-28.
However, Molly Mikell, who finished with seven points and Redfield locked down defensively and got the Lady Blue Devils going in transition.
“(Mikell) is a junior and she hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time for us. We’ve tried to define her as a defensive player,” Seier said. “She takes care of the basketball and we’re looking forward to her getting some more playing time.”
Portal will play Wheeler County on the road. Girls game starts at 6 p.m.
Statesboro High School will face Liberty County today at home. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.