PORTAL — Just one week after an overtime epic at the Devil’s Den, Statesboro and Portal once again took to the court.
The Portal Panthers held the home-court advantage on Saturday night, but the result was the same as the first time around with the Blue Devils claiming a 69-65 victory.
Portal (4-2) — playing up by four classifications — once again took its county rival to the brink, but the Devils (5-2) once again prevailed.
“We knew we were going to get tough games against Portal,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “It took a great effort to win last week and it was the same tonight. They’re a tough team.”
Statesboro needed a masked hero — literally — to get them through their second run-in with the Panthers.
Sophomore Cameron Harvey was forced out of Tuesday’s game with a broken nose and played Saturday’s game with a protective mask on his face. Harvey drilled a pair of 3’s to begin the game for the Devils. When Portal refused to roll over in the fourth quarter, Harvey answered two Panther 3’s with two more of his own to keep his team in front.
“You know, he was starting to shoot it pretty good just before he got hurt,” Hill said. “I guess (the injury) didn’t change that. He was a big part of our success.”
Statesboro controlled the early action and took a 16-9 advantage when Deontae Whitfield (6 points) hit a 3 to end the first quarter, but it was all nip-and-tuck from there.
Tyler Budgett and D’Von Moore got Portal’s long range shooting going in the second quarter and Trent Thomas, battle for a pair of inside buckets to draw the Panthers within 24-21 at the break.
Portal took its only lead of the night on a Budgett 3 early in the third quarter and Thomas threw down three thunderous dunks in the period, but Statesboro always had an answer as Michael Salomon (10 points) joined the Devils’ offensive push.
Harvey’s second 3 of the fourth quarter made it a three possession game that the Panthers couldn’t close.
Thomas fouled out with just over three minutes to play and the Devils took advantage, scoring six points in the paint after Thomas’ departure to keep Portal at bay.
Portal’s girls put up a better fight the second time around, but still weren’t able to notch a win as the SHS girls claimed a season series sweep in Saturday’s first game.
Stashia Everett had a breakout performance, leading SHS with 17 points as the Lady Devils (6-4) took their second game against Portal in as many weeks with a 58-22 win.
“Statesboro is a good team with a lot of girls that can score,” Portal coach Cliff Hubbard said. “(Statesboro’s Tanice Johnson) is a dangerous player and we limited her, but they were able to find other ways to score.”
The Panthers (0-6) put themselves in a hole from the get-go as they were only able to manage a pair of field goals in the opening quarter while Statesboro build a 16-4 advantage.
Chandlier Morgan (6 points) and and Tia Hagins (5) did the majority of the damage for Portal, but neither was able to score until the second half.
Portal again lacked explosiveness, but showed a bit of balance that is new to the team.
“We had a few girls shoot it a little better,” Hubbard said. “That’s a positive. No matter the score, I think we played hard and took another step forward.”
Portal showed improvement from last week’s meeting and Statesboro had a much tougher time pulling away the second time around. But still, the Panthers struggled heavily in the second half and the Devils were able to pile up points down the stretch and put up an impressive final line.
Statesboro returns to Region 3-AAAAA play as the Devils travel to Richmond Hill Tuesday night. Portal will play a pair of region crossover games as the Panthers host Johnson County Tuesday.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.