PORTAL — The nightcap on the final day of the Portal Holiday Classic ended with a bang, but the Panthers just ran out of time.
McIntosh County Academy jumped out to a 40-19 halftime lead and Portal stormed back in the final two quarters, but the Buccaneers held on for a 68-64 win.
The Panthers turned over the ball 11 times in the first half.
“We didn’t come out ready to play and they jumped on us,” said PHS coach Jeff Brannen. “Their pressure got to us in the first half, and I thought we grew up as a team in the second half, started handling their pressure.”
The Panthers (5-4) came out of the locker room and went on a tear with a 9-2 run that started with a second-chance bucket by Isiah Rich and ended when Rich banked in a 3-pointer that turned a 21-point deficit into a 44-28 game.
The Panthers continued chipping away, and forward Joseph Lockley hit back-to-back buckets before sophomore guard Devante Williams (11 points) ended the quarter with a score of his own.
“Your defense has a lot to do with your offense,” Brannen said. “When you can score, it sets the defense up. In the first half we were turning the ball over, and they were running and got some easy baskets.”
The run continued into the fourth quarter. The 16-4 spurt was capped off by a second-chance layup by Corey Reese (15 points, 10 rebounds) and left Portal trailing 56-49 with 4:15 remaining.
The teams held serve until late in the fourth when back-to-back 3s by Jamie Hagins (14 points) cut it to 66-60 with 45 seconds to go.
Three more Reese points were interrupted by a pair of free throws by the Buccaneers that put the game away.
McIntosh (7-6) jumped to a 10-0 lead at the start of the game, and after four fouls in the first three minutes, Brannen subbed all five starters.
Robert Lee got the Panthers’ first basket 3:50 into the game, and Lee, Devante Williams and Deontre Williams combined for nine points before Hagins reentered the game for his first of his four 3-pointers.
“Sometimes the starting five, they get in a little lull and you have to give them a little wakeup call,” said Brannen. “We gave other players a chance to play and I thought the first group responded well after they sat there and watched for a little while.”
The Panthers never led, but trailed by as many as 23 and cut it as close as four.
Hagins scored 14 points and was the third Panther in double digits.
Four bucks did most of the scoring, as Terry Edwards (17), Kion Buton (14), Barry Deyerger (11) and T.J. Jenkins (11) scored all but 16 of the 66 points.
Portal returns to action in 2011, when it travels to Treutlen on Friday, Jan. 7 for a 7:30 p.m. tip. The Lady Panthers will play at 6 p.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.