PORTAL — After building a big early lead, Claxton had to hang on for dear life at the end.
Treutlen County clawed back into the game and briefly held a fourth quarter lead before the Lady Tigers rebounded for a 37-36 victory in the first round of the Region 3-A tournament Tuesday night.
Breanna McClendon (13 points) gave Treutlen its only lead of the game at 33-31 on a layup with 2:51 to go, but Polly Murray — one of two Tigers with with 13 points — answered right back to tie it again.
Trailing 37-33, McClendon buried a 3 to get the Vikings within one.
Treutlen got one more chance with 8.9 seconds left when Mariah Morgan missed two free throws for CHS, but Tianna Gainey’s 3-point attempt sailed long and Murray clinched the win with a rebound.
“Crazy is the only way to describe it,” said Claxton coach Laura Aziz. “There were a lot of things that went the wrong way for us, but we hung in there and found a way to win it.”
Murray and Devonna Brewton (13 points) bolstered Claxton as it exploded on a 13-2 run to open the game.
The Lady Vikings regrouped, but the Tigers' defense was stingy in carrying a 17-13 lead into halftime.
Brewton’s layup midway through the third period was the only field goal for Claxton in the quarter, but an 8-of-10 performance from the line kept a slender 27-24 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Neither team was able to seize momentum in the final quarter until McLendon’s go-ahead layup keyed the late drama.
With the win, Claxton advances to the second round of the tournament where it can earn a bid to the state tournament with a win over top-seeded Emanuel County Institute Thursday at Portal.
“We know it’s a tough road,” said Aziz. “We haven’t been in this position for awhile, but all we can ask for is the opportunity to play again. We’ll go out there Thursday and give it our best shot.”
Lady Raiders 55, Lady Panthers 24
The Portal girls saw their season come to an end Tuesday evening as they dropped a 55-24 decision to Savannah Christian in the first round of the Region 3-A tournament.
With the loss, Portal ended its 2010-11 season.
The Lady Panthers kept things close early on, but the Lady Raiders caught fire late in the second half and never allowed Portal to regroup.
Playing in her final game as a Panther, Nikki Sims — who led the Panthers with 12 points — connected on a layup to pull PHS within 10-8 at the 5:00 mark of the second quarter before momentum swung in favor of Savannah Christian.
The Raiders closed out the first half on a 15-2 run to take a comfortable lead into the break and push the Panthers to the brink of elimination.
Portal matched its opponent basket for basket early in the third, but never gained ground.
Leading the charge for the Raiders was Randi Freiss.
Freiss keyed the late first half run and six third quarter points kept Savannah Christian in command. The senior guard also hit a career milestone in the win, notching her 1,000th point early in the fourth quarter.
Kelly Reid and Taylor Turner joined Freiss in double-digit scoring for the Raiders with 10 points each.
With the win, Savannah Christian advances to play Montgomery County — No. 2 seed out of the West sub-region — Thursday night at Portal.
In Tuesday’s first game, Savannah Country Day defeated Jenkins County 51-36. SCD will play East sub-region top seed Bryan County Thursday at Portal.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.