SOPERTON — The Portal Panthers’ reign atop Region 3-A came to an end after nearly three years Tuesday night as Treutlen claimed a 68-62 victory in the region’s tournament championship game.
The win notched the Vikings’ first region championship since 1985.
Portal had taken the previous two region titles, but played from behind throughout the night against a Vikings squad that was able to avenge a December loss to the Panthers.
Swatavious Hooks tipped in a bucket with just over five minutes to go, giving Treutlen the lead for good.
Portal kept it a one-possession game until the final minutes, but never could get over the hump.
“Basketball is a game of bounces,” Portal coach Jeff Brannen said. “Tonight, the ball didn’t bounce our way. We had a bunch of shots that just wouldn’t go and (Treutlen) had a bunch of balls bounce right to them.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Treutlen though. They’re a scrappy team and they played a great game.”
Drew Gillis proved to be too much for the Panthers to handle.
Gillis was the only Viking to score double-digits, but he made up for any shortcomings of his teammates by dropping 25 points on Portal.
The real damage came in the fourth quarter where Gillis scored 13 of his points and made four clutch free throws to hold off the Panthers in the final minutes.
Treutlen led by as many as nine points in the second quarter before Portal slowly started to chip away at its deficit.
The deficit was down to 31-30 at halftime and 3s by Robert Lee (nine points) and Trent Thomas (25 points) kept Portal hot on the Vikings’ heels.
Trailing by three points late in the third quarter, Stacey Morgan injured his ankle and was helped off the floor.
With its leading scorer for the season on the bench, Lee took over and converted a three-point play to tie the game after three quarters.
Morgan returned in the fourth period and connected on a floater to give Portal its first and only lead of the night.
“So many times, we were so close,” Brannen said. “Stacey hit that shot and it was big for us. Then we had a few more chances to extend the lead and just couldn’t get it done.”
Portal was ranked No. 1 in the latest Class A power poll, but now must wait to see where it will end up in the state playoff bracket. The Panthers are still likely to get a high seed and host a first round opponent next Tuesday.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.