On paper, Saturday night's matchup between the Portal Panthers (13-9, 8-3) and Jenkins County Eagles (4-15, 3-9) should have been an easy win for Portal.
But that's why there are cliches about games 'being played on paper.'
Saturday's game went down to the wire, with Portal using a late 12-2 run to win 61-53.
“When these teams get together, you can throw out the records,” said Portal coach Jeff Brannen. “As bad as we played for over 25 minutes, the last five minutes was pretty good, and we gutted out a win.”
The Eagles jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. A Ronald Williams putback cut the lead to 9-7, but a T.K. Lee layup keyed another spurt for Jenkins County to help them finish the first quarter up 16-12.
In the second, a Lee layup extended the Eagles lead to 26-18 with 2:50 to go in the quarter, but consecutive steals and layups by Brian Ware and Devonta Brown helped cut the lead to 29-26 at the half.
The Panthers could have held the lead if they had hit a few free throws, as they were 6-for-17 from the line in the first half. It was a persistant problem for Portal as it recorded a sub-par line of 16-for-38 from the charity stripe on the night.
The game went back and forth in the third quarter as Portal’s Conner Washington tied the game at 33-33, only to see the Eagles pull back ahead 40-35 before a layup at the buzzer by Portal’s Tanner Myers made the score 40-37 at the end of the third.
Portal would take their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter as a Brian Ware layup made it 46-45 Panthers.
The Eagles regained the lead at 48-46 on a 3-pointer by Marquis Stephens, but Portal finally hit its stride and embarked on its decisive 12-2 run, keyed by solid defense and the play of brothers Craig and Brian Ware.
“The sign of a good team is when you aren’t playing your best you can still gut out a win,” Brannen said. “We got killed on the boards in the first half, made some adjustments, Jenkins started making shots so we changed to man to man and found a way to get it done.”
Portal had five players in double figures with Brian Ware, Brown and Washington all having 12 points. Ronald Williams and Craig Ware had 11 a piece. Jenkins County was paced by Lee with 16 and Wright added 12.
Lady Eagles 38, Lady Panthers 30
It looked as though the Portal girls were going to notch their second win of the season, but the Jenkins County girls made a late run, and were able to outscore Portal 10-2 in overtime as they pulled off the 38-30 victory.
“We’ve grown up a lot, but when you get in close games and haven’t won it’s tough,” said Portal coach Cliff Hubbard. “We have to learn how to win, and we are in the process of that right now.”
The game went back and forth in the first half with 6 different lead changes and the score was tied 10-10 after the first.
In the second Jenkins County pulled out to a five point lead, but Portal (1-20, 0-15) came back behind the play of center Keely Thomas who had a team high 15 points and the Eagles (7-11, 6-9) lead was cut to two at 19-17 at the half.
In the third a Kolbie Motes jumper gave Portal a 22-21 lead, but the Eagles came back to send the game to the fourth tied at 24-24.
Neither team was able to muster much offense in the fourth. Tied at 28-28 Dasia Mosely was fouled with 1:45 to play, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one and neither team would score the rest of the way sending the game to overtime.
“We had a lead, and went into overtime and we have to learn how to finish,” Hubbard said. “We played hard and showed improvement, but right now we are just not able to finish games.”
In overtime the Eagles Azaria Branch hit a three pointer, followed by a steam and layup by Tamya Plummer, and Jenkins County would end up winning by eight points.
Jenkins County was led by Plummer with 16 points, Janae Evans added seven.
Up next Portal is at Savannah Christian Tuesday with the girls getting things underway at 6 p.m.