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Americus Sumter Panther season celebration was a success

AMERICUS – A ceremony was held in celebration of the exciting seasons of the Americus-Sumter basketball teams on March 12 at Americus-Sumter High School gymnasium. Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers were honored alongside several other local teams for their achievements on the basketball court through the season.

Americus Mayor Barry Blount spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the teams on their exciting top-eight state finishes. Blount then presented Panther head coach Michael Hoffpauir and Lady Panther head coach Sherri Harris with certificates of achievement.

Blount went onto say how proud he is of the community’s young athletes and stressed to the crowd of attendees that these young men and women will have bright futures as community leaders.

Kenneth Cutts, a representative of Sanford Bishop, then stepped up to the podium to honor the players, coaches, and parents involved with the teams’ successes. Cutts went on to stress the importance of character in young athletes and wished the team members the best in their future endeavors. Cutts then presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Achievement to the school.

Cutts’ speech was followed by a performance by the Americus-Sumter cheerleaders.

The Staley Middle School basketball team was then recognized. Announcer Dwight Harris stated “The future of Panther and Lady Panther basketball looks very bright”, referring to the upcoming athletes.

Next, the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department 12-and-under basketball team stepped onto the court to receive recognition for their first-place state finish in the 2014-15 season.

The Sumter Middle School Panthers and Lady Panthers then stepped to the floor to be honored, followed by the ninth-grade academy and junior varsity teams.

The Panthers and Lady Panthers then took the court for a photo opportunity and were presented with posters commemorating their winning seasons. Coach Harris addressed the crowd and shared humorous stories about the team’s season before introducing the assistant coaches and managers. Coach Harris stated “Every game we win, we want to bring the community together.” Coach Harris thanked members of the community who have contributed to the Lady Panthers’ winning season and recognized the Lady Panther alumni in the crowd along with former coaches Betty Shelton and Evelyn Wright.

Coach Hoffpauir then addressed the Panthers and shared a humorous story from the season with the crowd. Hoffpauir then introduced the team’s managers and assistant coaching staff. He thanked the “Panther Nation”, school staff, and the superintendent for their continuing support stating “We’ve got a great thing going here and we need to keep it going. It was a heck of a season.”

D. Harris then addressed the crowd, stating “The Panthers and Lady Panthers are tall on winning and short on losing”, referring to the significant difference in height between coaches Hoffpauir and Harris. Together, the teams won 55 games and lost eight over the 2014-15 season.

A trophy was then presented to the Panthers’ and Lady Panthers’ coaches.

A raffle was then held and audience members received prizes donated by local businesses.

Tickets were then drawn which entitled winners to a chance to win a 50-inch television by making a field goal from the half-court line or to win one hundred dollars by making a three-pointer. A local man, whose ticket was drawn, gave the half-court shot opportunity to Lady Panther star player, A’tyanna Gaulden. Gaulden narrowly missed her shot, but was awarded the television anyway. The hundred-dollar prize went to a local student.

Americus-Sumter High School principal Kimothy Hadley then made closing remarks, allowing event sponsor Marcus Johnson to recognize the players’ parents. Hadley thanked Johnson, the Shriners organization, Phoebe-Sumter, and the event’s other sponsors for helping to make the event a success.