PORTAL — Coming off an embarrassing 56-18 loss to Jefferson County in Day 1 of the Portal Holiday Classic, the Lady Panthers had a much better showing against Long County for the second day of action.
Breyonna Raymond led the Lady Panthers (3-7 overall, 1-1 Region 3-A) in scoring with nine points and Chandalier Morgan added eight points, but Portal couldn’t quite get their offense going in a 55-31 loss to Long County on Tuesday night.
Despite the improved play from the previous night, the Lady Panthers’ Achilles heel — rebounding — reared its ugly head against the Lady Blue Tide.
“We (rebound) OK in stretches, but we don’t do it enough. It has to be a total team rebounding effort. It can’t be just one or two people,” said Portal girls basketball coach Cliff Hubbard. “We would miss an assignment and (Long County) would get the offensive rebound. We practice (rebounding), we preach it every day. We just have to go out and do it.”
Hubbard said he was impressed with the way his team played against a quality Class AA school.
“The effort was better tonight. We had a practice today at 10 a.m. and we worked on a lot of things. We worked on layups and it carried over. We had more focus,” Hubbard said. “Long County is not a bad ball club. A 20-point loss to a team like that looks bad, but that’s a good team.”
The Lady Blue Tide (7-5, 3-2 Region 2-AA) started the game on a 12-6 run, but Portal battled back to tie the game at 14-14 with 5:45 left to play after a Raymond three-point shot.
However, the Lady Panthers couldn’t gain the lead.
Aleaha Wiggins battled on the boards all night, but got into foul trouble toward the third quarter. Portal had open shots throughout the night, but couldn’t seem to find the range.
Arieanna Wiggins had a strong performance, scoring seven points for the Lady Panthers.
“Tiffany Harlow ran the show tonight and she had very limited turnovers, we just couldn’t make our shots. When you don’t make shots and can’t rebound on the other end it’s going to be a tough night,” Hubbard said.
In the third quarter, the Lady Blue Tide switched their defensive scheme to a triangle-and-two. Long County defended the Lady Panthers’ top scorers, putting the pressure on Arieanna Wiggins and company.
The Lady Blue Tide finished the game on a 11-2 run.
“We had some good open looks, but they didn’t fall and that’s OK. I’m proud of our girls for taking those shots,” Hubbard said.
Long County will continue tournament play at 2 p.m. against Jenkins.
Long County boys lose in OT
Down by 20 points at halftime, most teams would have called it a game, but not the Portal Panthers. In front of the home crowd Tuesday night for Day 2 of the Portal Holiday Classic, the Panthers erased a 20-point deficit in a come-from-behind 68-62 victory over Long County.
Portal’s Darius Huff helped spark a furious comeback in the fourth quarter and overtime scoring 23 points in both quarters and finishing the game with 31 points.
Ronald Williams played one of his best games, scoring 11 points and adding a couple of blocked shots on the defensive end. Connor Washington scored 12 points and Zac White finished with eight.
The Panthers (3-6, 1-1 Region 3-A) snapped a three-game losing streak and outscored Long County 53-38 in the second half and overtime.
“Tale of two halfs. I looked at it, and we’ve been averaging 42 points a game. To come out and score 53 points in the second half, you have to give credit to the kids. They never gave up,” said Portal head basketball coach Jeff Brannen. “We went in at halftime and we talked about what we needed to do. We missed some easy shots in the first half.”
In the early stages of the game, it appeared as though the Blue Tide would cruise to an easy victory. Long County (9-3, 4-1 Region 2-AA) came out on a 10-2 run in the first quarter. Portal didn’t score its first basket until the 3:24 mark in the first quarter.
Long County would continue to press the Panthers on defense, ending the first half up 35-15.
In the third quarter, the Panthers began to press and chip away at the Blue Tide lead.
“We decided to press a little bit, and I think that was the change of the game. We turned them over and got some easy baskets and continued to trap them in the corners,” Brannen said. “We hit some key shots, and I thought Darius (Huff) stepped up in the fourth quarter like he should and I though Ronald Williams played a heck of a game.”
The Panthers’ young squad had a tough test in the fourth quarter. Huff cut the Blue Tide lead to just three points with a key shot from beyond the arc. On the Panthers’ next possession, Ronald Williams received an interior pass from freshman Devonta Brown, and Williams finished the play to cut the lead to just one point.
Huff’s clutch free throws toward the end of the game would seal the deal for Portal.
“We controlled the boards and made some key shots. We knew going into the game that Long County had more athletes than we did. We limited our turnovers and played solid defense,” Brannen said. “You could see our confidence growing. Young guys are going to get thrown in the fire, and we as coaches need to be patient.”
Long County will host Metter at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, following the girls’ matchup at 5 p.m.