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Panthers split with Wolverines
portal web
Portal guard Malik Williams glides past Woodville- Thompkins defenders for a score during the second quarter of Tuesday's game in Portal. With just a few weeks before the state playoffs, the Panthers sit at number 18 in the Georgia Class-A public school power poll. Following the regular season and region tournaments, the top 16 teams in the power poll will advance to the state playoffs.

    The last time the Portal Panthers lost a game was Jan. 9 to West Laurens by a score of 39-37. Since then, the Panthers have been on fire, winning seven consecutive games including a Tuesday night 62-54 win over Woodville-Tompkins.
    Georgia Class-A boys basketball officials are beginning to take note of Portal’s play as of late. Last week, the Panthers were ranked in the mid-20s of the Georgia High School Association's Class-A power ratings. This week, Portal (11-10, 7-3 Region 3-A) made the leap to the No. 18 spot.
    “The games we’ve lost is because we couldn’t score on offense and that’s something we’ve improved on,” said boys basketball head coach Jeff Brannen. “We’re getting comfortable playing with each other and guys are starting to understand their role. That’s usually done during the summer time but we had so many new guys this year. We’ve taken a lot of losses, but we’ve learned for our losses and got better.”
    Against Woodville-Tompkins, Malik Williams and Darius Huff had a batman-and-robin esque performance Tuesday night. Williams and Huff combined for 29 points, scoring 16 and 13 respectively.
    The Panthers started the game spreading the ball. Eight players for Portal scored. Ronald Williams finished the game with eight points while Artavious Thomas added seven. Jacob Hylow also scored six points for the Panthers.
    Portal started the first quarter on a 12-2 run and were up at halftime 30-20.
    “When guys touch the ball on offense, they seem to play better,” said Brannen after the game, smiling. “In our system we like to run a motion offense and spread teams out. It just gets us going on the defensive end too.”
    Despite the victory, Coach Brannen said there’s still a few facets of the game his players need to work on. One facet reared its ugly head late in the game against the Wolverines—free throws.
    Leading 53-40 with 3:30 left to play in the game, Woodville-Tompkins shaved the Panthers’ margin by fouling Portal players and sending them to the free-throw line.
    The tactic worked, sparking an 8-3 run by the Wolverines. Although the Panthers led throughout the game, Woodville-Tompkins came within six points of tying the game up with under a minute to play.
    “You have to hit your free throws. We got to go back and hit our free throws late in the fourth quarter. We’ve had trouble closing games out,” Brannen said.
With just three games left on the regular-season schedule, the Panthers will put their win streak on the line against Jenkins County on the road, Friday.
    With just three games left in the regular season, the Lady Panthers are trying to find some momentum before the start of the region tournament.
    Tuesday against Woodville-Tompkins, the Lady Panthers didn’t quite find what they were looking for in a 55-33 loss.
    Missed opportunities at the free-throw line and a defensive rebounding discrepancy were the difference in Portal’s (7-15, 4-6 Region 3-A) 22-point loss.
    “We turned the ball over and we didn’t get back on defense. They beat us up and down the court,” said Portal girls head basketball coach Tendai Haggins. “They beat us up and down. We were lethargic and we didn’t get back on defense.”
    It wasn’t all bad for the Lady Panthers. Breyonna Raymond, who finished the game with a team-high 17 points, scored her 1,000 point against the Lady Wolverines. Chandalier Morgan finished the game with 10 points and Aleaha Wiggins added four.
    The Panthers took a brief moment to stop the game and announce Raymond’s accomplishment.
    “The recognition really means a lot because being a Portal girls basketball players sometimes gets looked down on because we’re not a bigger school,” said Raymond about scoring her 1,000th point. “We play hard and my points couldn’t have come without my team.”
    Down 21-13 at halftime, the Lady Panthers stormed back into the game behind the play of Raymond. Portal went on an 8-4 run to start the third quarter and cut the Lady Wolverines’ lead to 25-21 at the 3:45 mark in the third.
    Raymond scored nine points in the quarter.
    “We play as a family,” Raymond said. “No matter how much we fuse and fight, we’re still a family.”
    The Lady Wolverines wouldn’t be phased by Raymond’s scoring prowess or Portal’s third-quarter run. In the last three minutes of the third quarter, Woodville-Tompkins responded by going on a 12-2 run to put  the game out of reach.
    Head coach Haggins said his team needs to play with intensity every night in order to compete in the upcoming region tournament.
    “I just want the young ladies to play for four quarters and play with pride. Hopefully, we can get some momentum headed into the region tournament,” Haggins said after the game.
    Next up, Portal will face Jenkins County on the road Friday. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.