PORTAL — The Portal Panthers dug themselves a 15-4 deficit early in their game against Treutlen Tuesday night, then showed exactly why they’re defending state semifinalists in Class A.
The Panthers ripped off a 38-16 run to close out the first half and kept their foot on the gas as they cruised to a 77-62 victory over Treutlen County.
“We know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Portal coach Jeff Brannen said. “We didn’t play our best early on, but I was proud of the way we responded and got ourselves back into the game.”
Treutlen (5-1) pressed hard and used its length to get the Panthers (3-0) out of rhythm early on. Titus Benjamin (11 points) and Josh Rowell were able to generate plenty of good looks down low early on, scoring all but four of their combined points in the first two quarters.
Portal connected on five free throws to pull within 18-9 after the first quarter and came out firing on all cylinders in the second period.
Trent Thomas (18 points) got the comeback started with a layup, and Stacey Morgan — who led Portal with 20 points — found Tyler Budgett for fastbreak layups on consecutive possessions.
With 4:57 to play in the first half, B.J. Prescott put back an offensive rebound to give Portal its first lead at 21-19. The floodgates opened from there as Morgan drained a pair of 3s — with Marquis Wells and Budgett adding long-range scores of their own — to stake the Panthers to a 41-31 halftime advantage.
“We didn’t handle the half-court trap very well early and gave (Treutlen) some easy looks,” Brannen said. “Once we calmed down a little, we started making some better passes and got ourselves out into space where we could run our offense and get the shots we wanted.”
Portal put the game out of reach early in the third quarter with a 6-0 run to start the action. Treutlen’s balanced offence — 11 of the Vikings’ 12 players scored on the night — kept the game from getting too far out of hand, but Portal easily stayed at arm’s length.
The Vikings got as close as 69-55, but Thomas put down a two-handed jam with 4:08 to play to put an exclamation point on the win.
Lady Panthers drop a close one
Portal’s girls continued their early run of nail-biters, but dropped their second consecutive game as Truetlen claimed a 48-44 win Tuesday evening.
The Lady Panthers (1-2) ripped off a 5-0 run to take a lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Lady Vikings (4-2) responded down the stretch.
Nikita Wicker hit a pair of free throws before a jumper by Jasmine Brown (12 points) brought the Vikings within 42-40.
Shiann Hagins (13 points) hit a free throw for Portal, but Nesha Blair responded with a layup. Fallowing a Portal turnover, Brown connected on another layup for Treutlen at the 1:32 mark and the Panthers weren’t able to recover.
“It’s been a little disappointing to see fourth quarter leads slip away the last couple of games,” Portal coach Cliff Hubbard said. “But we’re getting better and this is good adversity to face early in the season. We’ll make the adjustments in practice and hope to keep improving.”
Breyonna Raymond led all scorers with 17 points and her jumper with 5:04 to play keyed the run that nearly took the Panthers to a win. Cheryl Lee added 10 more points to put three Lady Panthers in double-figures.
Both Portal teams will be back in action Friday night as the Panthers host Emanuel County Institute.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.