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Portal splits against rival ECI on basketball court
Portal's Taquwan Brinkley goes up strong for a two-handed dunk during the fourth quarter of the Panthers' victory over ECI Friday night in Portal. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

    The Portal boys basketball team entered their region matchup with Emanuel County Institute riding a little momentum after a 69-57 win over Calvary Day earlier in the week.  The Panthers kept things rolling Friday night as they knocked off the Bulldogs 70-45.

    Portal jumped out to an early 9-1 lead after a Craig Ware steal and layup.  ECI came back to take its first lead of the game at 16-15 with 6:03 left in the second quarter on a layup by Omar Gordan, but the Panthers answered seconds later on a 3-pointer by Dax Reddick to grab an 18-16 advantage.

    Portal added to its lead as Devonta Brown hit a 25-foot jump shot at the buzzer, sending Portal to the locker room with a 28-20 lead.

    “Any time you end the half on a last second shot it’s huge,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen.  “ECI had a little momentum, but that shot gave us the momentum into the half, and we carried it into the third quarter.”

    Connor Washington was the catalyst for the Panthers in the first half as he scored 9 of his game high 18 points.

    The Panthers extended their lead in the third quarter behind the one-two punch of Taquwan Brinkley and Ronald Williams.  Williams scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half, while Brinkley had 13 of his 16 points after halftime.

    A Brinkley jumper with 5:05 left in the third gave the Panthers a 36-25 lead.  Williams added a 15-footer to extend the lead to 41-28, and Portal went on for a 51-34 lead at the end of the third.

    “We have preached about getting the ball in the paint,” Brannen said. “I think our guards did an excellent job of getting the ball inside to Taquwan, Ron and even Craig Ware, who played well in the paint.”

    Fourth quarter dunks by Williams and Brinkley energized the crowd and sealed the win.

    “I think we are really starting to realize our roles,” Brannen said. “We are starting to take advantage of matchups and starting to gel as a team.”

Lady Bulldogs 55, Lady Panthers 26

    The long season continued Friday night for the Portal Panthers who remained winless on the season, as despite hanging around in the first half the Lady Panthers fell 55-26.

    The Panthers actually started the game well. A three pointer by Dasia Mosley and a jumper by Kolbie Motes helped Portal keep the game tied at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

    The trouble came from then on, as ECI built a 27-9 halftime lead, and then outscored the Panthers 28-17 in the second half.

    “We started out well, but we have to play better than just for a few minutes each quarter,” said Portal coach David Hodges. “We have to be more consistent from start to finish.”

    The Panthers are winless on the season, and coach Hodges admits that is a difficult realtiy for the players to deal with

    “It’s hard because they are all aware of that,”  Hodges said. “We just have to keep pushing and keep working.  We try and stress at practice to just work on the fundamentals, and do the right things, and it will pay off.

    Portal was led by Motes and Mosley who each had six points.  ECI was paced by Prencis Harden with 15 points, Nuturi Smith added 13.

    The Bulldogs improve to 4-3 (2-2), while the Panthers fall to 0-11 (0-6). Up next for Portal is a trip to Jenkins County  tonight.