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Claxton escapes Lady Panthers in semis
Portal's Gloria Wiggins, bottom, and Claxton's Keri Brown both go to the floor for a loose ball during the first quarter on Monday in the Region 3-A semifinals in Soperton. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    SOPERTON — The Portal girls have been the Cinderella story of the Region 3-A tournament, but midnight finally struck Monday night.
    Squaring off against Claxton – top seed in the tournament and No. 1 in the Class A power poll – the Lady Panthers gained an early lead and stayed ahead all the way into the fourth quarter before finally dropping a 41-31 decision.
    “I was proud of our girls,” Portal coach Cliff Hubbard said. “We played well, but things just didn’t continue in the fourth quarter. We couldn’t get our shots to go and we missed some assignments.”
    Breyonna Raymond led Portal with 12 points, but was held scoreless in the second half.
    The Panthers clung to a 26-25 lead after four quarters before Claxton (23-4) finally broke through. Kashara Moody and Keri Brown led the comeback with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
    “We just told our kids that we had to hang in there and run the offense,” Claxton coach Laura Aziz said. “We had a few shots start to fall that had been rolling out for us. That fourth quarter was big.”
    With the win, the Lady Tigers advance to today’s championship game against Calvary Day to be played at 6 p.m.
    After all Class A region tournaments have concluded, a final power poll will determine brackets for the state tournament.
    Regardless of today’s results, Claxton figures to remain as one of the top seeds. Portal will have to watch the polls to see its fate.
    “Right now, we’re pretty optimistic,” Hubbard said. “We won’t know for sure until that last poll comes out, but it looks promising.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.