PORTAL — Jamie Hagins and Jordan Buchanon made their final career home game a good one.
The pair, and the rest of the Portal Panthers (15-8, 9-3 Region 3-A) gave the Senior Night crowd plenty to cheer about as they walked away with an 85-75 victory over Screven County Saturday night.
Four different Panthers scored at least 14 points with freshman Stacey Morgan’s 26 leading the way.
“I thought that everyone shot the ball especially well tonight,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “We had a tough loss last night, so it was good to see our team bounce back.”
Technically speaking, the Gamecocks never had a chance to get into the ballgame.
After a Screven player dunked in pregame warm-ups, a technical foul was assessed.
Morgan sank both free throws, then drilled a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession to give the Panthers a 5-0 edge before Screven touched the ball. In fact, the Gamecocks never took control of the ball with a deficit of less than four points throughout the entire game.
In addition to Morgan’s early long range strike, the Panthers were especially deadly from behind the arc Saturday.
Morgan, Hagins (14 points) and Treston White (22 points) hit 3’s on consecutive possessions midway through the second quarter and extended the Portal lead to 38-26 at halftime.
Not to be outdone, Screven’s Jamel Lanier (17 points) almost singlehandedly got his team back into the game. The lanky guard buried three straight from long range in the opening minutes of the third quarter and his jumper midway through the period brought the Gamecocks within 46-43.
That’s when Portal put its foot down.
Switching to an inside game, the Panthers racked up points from Corey Reese — who scored 15 — in the paint and from the line as they went on a tear. Morgan hit once more from 30 feet out just before the quarter ended to cap a 15-5 run and give Portal a dominating 61-47 advantage.
“When (Lanier) got hot, I just told our guys to close out on the shooters on defense,” said Brannen. “Offensively, we just had to keep doing what was working all night. Corey played very well down low and Stacey hit a bunch of 3’s when the defense sagged down.”
Screven continued to do damage from outside in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers matched the effort each step of the way and the Gamecocks were never able to make Portal feel the pressure.
Nigil Campfield (27 points) hit a 3 with 27.1 seconds left to get Screven within 74-83, but Campfield’s next attempt sailed wide left and Morgan iced the game with a pair of free threws.
Portal takes the momentum from Saturday into a critical Tuesday showdown at Wheeler County. The Panthers lead Emanuel County Institute by one game in the standings and a win on Tuesday will sew up the Panthers’ No. 2 seed in next weeks region tournament.
Lady Gamecocks 72, Lady Panthers 41
Portal’s girls didn’t get the same enjoyable sendoff as No. 7 Screven County rolled to a 72-41 win earlier in the evening.
The Lady Gamecock starters wasted no time in jumping out to a lead, and even though Portal had some solid offense early, Screven still built a 22-14 advantage after the first quarter.
An early 12-0 run in the second quarter helped the Gamecocks pull away for good.
Casmeyona Austin and Courtney Roberts paced Screven with 22 and 18 points, respectively, and created much of the run with their suffocating defense and points in transition. The Gamecocks stretched their lead to an insurmountable 44-24 by halftime and their reserves easily played out the second half while protecting the lead.
Portal’s Boshna Williams made the most of her senior night, leading the Lady Panthers with 15 points.
Other Portal girls playing their final home game were Nikki Sims, Megan Moore, Megan Anderson, Janie Williams, LaQuanda Brown and Aissia Mosley.
PHS 60, SCHS 55 (JV)
It was nip-and-tuck all the way, but Portal’s junior varsity squad held on to earn a close 60-55 win over Screven Saturday afternoon.
Treston White stole the show for the Panthers as he dropped 30 points in the win.
Damon Johnson followed White with 12 points and Shaun Hagins (8) and Erick Sapp (3) rounded out Portal’s scoring.
Desmond Williams led all Gamecocks with 20 points.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.