SAVANNAH — With a little more than four minutes left to play it was now or never time for the Portal Panthers, who trailed Calvary Day by eight at the Calvary gym.
For a while it appeared it was going to be now for the rallying Panthers, but unfortunately it turned into never as the Cavaliers held on for a 55-47 win Tuesday night in a matchup of the two Class A Region 3A-A powers.
“Turnovers,” was the first word out of Portal coach Jeff Brannen’s mouth as he exited the dressing room after a postgame meeting with this team. “They did a good job of trapping us and taking us out of our rhythm in the third quarter. We did a good job of fighting back to get it to one possession. Then a turnover, and that was it.”
Portal (12-3, 3-1) and the Cavaliers (8-1, 4-0) were tied 15-15 after one quarter thanks to an NBA range 3-pointer by the Panthers’ Malik Williams with 10 seconds on the clock.
It remained a nip-and-tuck affair until Portal closed out the half on a 6-0 run for a 25-20 halftime lead.
However, the Panthers could not sustain the momentum against the pressing Cavs who took advantage of numerous Portal errors to take charge of the game. Calvary led, 40-32, one minute into the fourth quarter, and the lead was still eight, 44-36, with 4:36 to play.
Over the next two minutes the complexion of the game changed as the Panthers went on a 9-2 run to close to within one point. When Trent Thomas scored on a nifty reverse layup along the baseline with 2:04 to play it was 46-45.
Portal then had an opportunity to go ahead when Harrison Sherrod rebounded a missed shot, but the Panthers could not capitalize as they had two turnovers and two missed shots in the next minute of play. Calvary closed on a 9-2 run to seal the win.
“Games between Calvary and us are always a good battle,” Brannen said. “This was a good test for us, and now we can see what we’ve got to work on.”
Thomas led the Panthers with 17 points, and Williams added 12. Robert Lee came off the bench to score seven points in the fourth quarter, hitting two 3-pointers to keep Portal’s hopes alive.
Calvary was led by Robert Heyward and Derek Kirkland with 13 points each.
Lady Cavaliers 49, Lady Panthers 14
The Calvary girls are year-in and year-out one of the top Class A girls programs in the state, but the Portal girls more than held their own with the Lady Cavaliers in the first half.
Thanks to a 12-point half by Breyonna Raymond the Lady Panthers trailed 15-12 at the intermission, and then the roof fell in.
The Cavaliers turned the third quarter into a nightmare for Coach Cliff Hubbard’s team (7-8, 2-2) as they went on a 31-2 rampage and wound up coasting to an easy 49-14 win. Portal had only two points in the second half, a third quarter layup by Tiffany Harlow.
Calvary came out in the third quarter with a full-court press. The Cavaliers scored 22 points off turnovers as they turned a close game into a rout.
“He (Cavs Coach Jackie Hamilton) just moved from a man-to-man to a full-court press and we didn’t handle it,” Hubbard said. “It was just a lack of concentration on our part. We hung in there in the first half, but we’re in the stages of learning to win, and that comes with winning which is something Calvary has been doing for a long time.”
Abigail Lewis scored 16 points, and Brittany Griffin added 13 to lead the Cavs. The two combined for 21 points in the decisive third quarter.