SAVANNAH — Calvary Day withstood Portal’s torrid start and rallied to beat the Panthers, 58-44, Saturday night at Savannah Country Day School’s gym to claim the Region 3-A tournament championship.
It was the Cavaliers’ fourth tournament championship in the last eight years, and the second at Portal’s expense.
Coach Jeff Brannen’s team lost to Calvary Day in the 2007 title game, and it, too, was similar to Saturday night’s loss.
The Panthers came out sizzling from long range and they jumped out to a 19-10 first period lead thanks to a barrage of three-pointers.
Portal hit five treys in the first period, three by Robert Lee, and added two in the second period, another by Lee, but they never connected again against a Cavalier defense that turned up the pressure.
Lee finished the game with 16 points, but scored only two in the second half. Stacey Morgan added 10. Cole Baham scored 16 to pace the Cavaliers.
Portal (17-10) will host a team from Region 1-A in GHSA Class A tournament play this Saturday night.
“We’ll take the 3-point shot if it’s there,” Brannen said. “You have to give Calvary credit. They turned it around defensively and did a good job double teaming the ball to force turnovers.”
It was an inability to control the ball as much as suddenly going cold from the field that proved to be the Panthers’ undoing.
Calvary came up with 12 steals, and converted points off most of them.
The Panthers led 33-29 at the half, and still held a 38-33 lead with 3 minutes 40 seconds left in the third period when Calvary went on a 13-0 run that carried over into the fourth period.
Calvary point guard Mark Jones, who had 22 points in Friday night’s win over Montgomery County, got the Cav run started when he hit back-to-back layups following turnovers. They were Jones’ first points of the night.
After Jones’ second basket Brannen quickly called time to try and settle his team down and set up a play to hopefully stem the tide.
However, the Panthers immediately turned over the ball and Alex Reed was fouled. Reed made the two free throws and with 1:47 on the clock the Cavaliers had the lead at 39-38, and they never looked back.
By the time Lee broke the drought for Portal it was 50-40, and although four minutes remained the issue was settled.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Brannen said. “They played hard against a good team, a team that is experienced and has been in this position before.
“Calvary played good defense and took us out of our offensive rhythm. We’re still playing, though, and we’ve just got to continue to work and get better.”