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ASHS hoops sweeps Lee, Albany in region contests

By MICHAEL MURRAY

ALBANY – The Americus-Sumter Panthers and Lady Panthers have continued their winning ways following their sweep of Bainbridge in the season’s 2016 openers.
Both teams hit the road on for Albany Jan. 9, battling to victories over the Lee County Trojans and Lady Trojans. The ASHS teams returned to Albany on Jan. 12, with the teams making a similar sweep of Albany High School in the region 1-AAAA contests.
The pair of wins leaves the Lady Panthers with an impressive 14-1 overall record. The ASHS girls are undefeated in 1-AAAA competition after seven showdowns.
The ASHS boys are holding steady with an 8-6 overall record and a 3-3 record in region 1-AAAA.
The Lady Panthers opened the action against the Lee County Lady Trojans on Jan. 9, battling to an 85-52 victory behind a hard press in the second half that saw ASHS’ Atyanna Gaulden gain three straight steals, each of which she converted into points.
According to reports, after the contest Lady Panther head coach, Sherri Harris, was quoted as saying, “We were just trying to throw a lot of different things at them. A lot of our girls got into a little foul trouble early on, so we had to kind of ease up on our energy. We came out in the second half and the girls picked up the pressure a little bit. We got some easy turnovers and some steals. We were scoring baskets.”
When the ASHS boys stepped onto the court to battle the Trojans, Stephon Luster sank the first basket of the game for the Panthers. This play was immediately followed by an expert block from Kiante Sims after which Eric Hall took the ball back to the bucket to keep the Panthers ahead.
The Panthers took a 9-7 lead into the second frame and, by the half, the Trojans had clawed their way back to tie the score 22-22.
ASHS held the Trojans to only 13 points after returning from the break and added 20 to their own total to hold the lead 42-35 heading into the final frame. Lee County made their comeback run in the final stanza, but could not overcome the deficit and the Panthers cinched the 52-49 win.
Three days later, the ASHS hoops stars headed back to Albany to take on Albany High.
In the first contest of the afternoon, the Lady Panthers’ Jakala Stevenson opened the scoring with a lay-up. Soon after, Shidajah Johnson tossed in another that would put the ASHS girls ahead for the rest of the contest.
Jykiera Long opened the second period with a pair of back-to-back three-pointers and the Lady Panthers never looked back. By half-time, the ASHS girls had amassed a 45-4 lead.
Albany added another four points in the third frame as the Lady Panthers steadily continued scoring. The Americus girls tacked on another 30 points in the second half to take the substantial 75-8 victory.
When the visiting Panthers hit the court for the evening’s nightcap, the Americus team came out strong, building a 24-11 pad over the first eight minutes. Albany stepped up their game in the second frame, keeping up with the Panthers as each team scored 17 points, but the Indians would not get the chance to pull themselves out of their early hole and the Panthers eventually claimed the 74-54 win.
Fred Bryant led the Panthers to victory in this contest with 20 points, including a pair of three-pointers. Daylon Leary connected on three shots from beyond the arc to match Sims’ nine points. Aiden Sanford and Hall each tossed in seven points for the Panther cause.
Ben Walters led the team on the boards with six rebounds. Bryant did his part on the defensive side of the ball, contributing six steals, followed by Luster, who claimed four.
Altogether, the Panthers shot over 55 percent from the field and connected on 60 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe.
The Panthers and Lady Panthers hit the road once more for Cairo on Jan. 15 to take on the Syrupmakers and Lady Syrupmakers. The results of these contests were not available at press time.
The ASHS teams return to Americus on Jan. 16, hosting 1-AAAA opponents, Thomas County Central, at the Panther Den in Americus.