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Portal splits against Montgomery County
Portal web
Portal's Darius Huff, center, is surrounded by Montgomery defenders Jaheel Eilson, left, and Bakari Woods in the backcourt during the third quarter Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    In the 2012-2013 season for the Portal Panthers, the team advanced to the 3-A state Final Four. That was then, this is now.
    Against Montgomery County in the season opener the Panthers were overwhelmed by the Eagles press and size, losing 73-49.
    Darius Huff and Zac White paced the Panthers offensively, scoring 15 and 13 respectively. Malik Williams scored six points, but foul trouble forced him to sit for most of the game.
    After the game, Portal head coach Jeff Brannen said this game was a learning experience for his young players.
    “The ones we have playing now didn’t get much playing time last year. Tonight was the first time they played a regular season game and as coaches we have to show some patience,” Brannen said. “We have to work on some things. The guards for Montgomery dictated everything tonight and when you’re having trouble scoring and turning the ball over...It’s just bad.”
    The Panthers struggled to get into a rhythm offensively in the early goings of the game. Montgomery County led 38-17 at halftime.
    Coach Brannen said he wanted to get his players in a better position to be more successful on the court and it seemed to work in the third quarter.
    Huff began to find his range from downtown, hitting back-to-back three pointers to cut into the Eagles’ lead.
    Portal cut the lead to 45-30 with less than five minutes left to play in the third quarter, however, the Eagles’ press defense proved to be just too much.
    “We talked about live-ball turnovers. We said we couldn’t have too many live ball turnovers and we did. (Montgomery) speed the game up on us and we made a lot of frustration fouls,” Brannen said. “We came out in the third quarter and cut it down, but had a couple of turnovers that hurt us.”

Lady Panthers 45, Lady Eagles 35

    Tuesday’s girls game between the Lady Panthers and Montgomery County seemed to parallel the story of David versus Goliath. At least as far as size goes.
    The Portal Panthers trailed by as many as 10 points in the game, but were able to fight back and win the first game of the season 45-35.
    Portal outscored the Lady Eagles 28-14 in the second half.
    “They didn’t give up,” said Portal head coach Cliff Hubbard. “We got into some tough spots, but the girls were able to respond. The seniors on this team really stepped up.”
    If the Lady Panthers were playing the part of David, Taliajah Brown was the MCHS version of Goliath.
    The six-foot-plus senior finished the game with a game-high 16 points, the majority of which came in the low post.
    For Portal, the Lady Panthers were led by Chandelier Morgan, who finished the game with 15 points. Breyonna Raymond scored 11 points and Arieanna Wiggins added seven.
    Coming into the season opener against Montgomery County, Hubbard knew there would be a problem with the lack of height in his starting lineup.
    With Brown terrorizing the paint, the Lady Panthers had success with their outside shot. Coleman and Raymond got Portal on the board early in the 2015-2016 campaign with back-to-back jumpers.
    However, the Lady Eagles jumped out to an early 12-5 first quarter lead.
    In the second quarter, the Lady Panthers found their defensive “mojo” by pressuring the ball and making key stops. Brown got into foul trouble which allowed for the Lady Panthers’ defense to play in man-to-man.
    “Once big 33 (Brown) got into foul trouble we were able to play man-to-man and once we did that we were able to force some turnovers,” Hubbard said. “That really got us going.”
    The Lady Panthers trailed by as many as 10 points with five minutes left to play in the third quarter, but Portal finished the quarter on a 11-2 run. Morgan hit back-to-back three point shots in the third to cut the Lady Eagles’ lead to 30-27.
    To start the third quarter, Morgan drained another three to give the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game.
    Portal won just two games last year, Hubbard said his team’s come-from-behind win was a great way to start the season.
    “It feels good, but more so for the girls. This senior class that we have, (did) not win their first game of the year yet and that’s what we stress in practice is starting strong,” Hubbard said. “They were able to get this first win and hopefully we can take this momentum into the rest of our season.”

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.