PORTAL — After struggling through the first half, Portal finally found its stride.
The Panthers rallied to string together a 12-1 first half run to take the lead and held off a late Jenkins County charge to notch a 60-55 victory in Region 3-A play Tuesday night.
Senior guard Jamie Hagins hit three times from beyond the arc — including a crucial long ball to put Portal up by 10 late in the game — and scored 17 points to go along with Isiah Rich’s team-high 18, and Stacey Morgan’s 12 made it three Panthers in double-digit scoring.
“It was a pretty solid team effort tonight,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “We struggled a bit early, but came back. Jamie’s performance was a good example of that. He hit a few early and then got into foul trouble. Luckily, he came back big for us late.”
Zavondric Shingleton and Jamaine Torrence each hit twice from the floor to keep the Eagles within 58-55 in the final seconds, but a traveling call gave the Panthers the ball with 12.8 seconds remaining and Morgan iced the game with a pair of free throws.
It was rough sledding in the early going for Portal.
Hagins connected on back-to-back 3’s to give the Panthers a 10-4 lead, but Jenkins County quickly answered.
The Eagles went on an 11-0 run, denying the Panther offense and utilizing their significant height advantage to control the boards and rack up second chance points.
“We knew that Jankins was big and long,” said Brannen. “When we started missing some shots, they took advantage. Once we got into some more open space, we were able to play our game and turn things around.”
Portal regained its composure early in the second quarter and fought back to tie the game at 17-17. Both teams worked their offenses well and found easy opportunities inside as they went back and forth, trading the lead five times in less than three minutes.
Morgan and Corey Walker each hit layups with less than a minute to play in the first half, but Torrence hit a runner of his own to put the Eagles up 27-26 at the break.
Portal made its move almost immediately coming out of the locker room.
Rich hit on consecutive layups to put the Panthers out in front for good, and Walker, Morgan and Hagins all contributed baskets as Portal stretched its advantage to 42-32.
Jenkins County was able to chop its deficit down to 44-39 entering the fourth quarter, but Portal stayed ahead by two possessions for almost the entire final eight minutes and Hagins’ late dagger proved to be just enough cushion to spur on the Panther win.
Lady Eagles 59, Lady Panthers 36
Portal put up a good fight, but couldn’t pull through in the end.
The Lady Panthers kept things close throughout the first half, but never could turn the tables on Jenkins County as the Eagles grabbed a 59-36 win Tuesday evening.
Ayana Walker led the charge for the Lady Eagles with 17 points and Zandra Lake scored 11 while pulling down seven rebounds.
Megan Anderson and Megan Moore each scored eight to lead the Panthers.
Trailing 31-20 at halftime, Portal outscored Jenkins County 13-10 in the third quarter, but never got enough of a run going to overtake the Eagles.
With Portal running out of gas, Jenkins County finished the game on an 18-5 run to win the game comfortably.
Portal JV 52, JCHS JV 48
Portal’s junior varsity boys weathered a tough matchup to come out on top of Jenkins County by a 52-48 margin Tuesday afternoon.
The Panthers led for much of the game, but the Eagles were on their heels the entire way and only a solid final 10 minutes of play for Portal proved to be the difference.
Marquis Wells led the Panthers with 13 points and Shaun Hagins followed close behind with 10 of his own in the winning effort.
Eight different Jenkins County players registered points, but only Justin Ellis’ 11 points cracked double-digits.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.