• 61°

ASHS teams topple Cairo, TCC in region tests

By MICHAEL MURRAY

The Americus-Sumter High School Panthers and Lady Panthers have continued their respective journeys to the top over the weekend, with each team expanding their impressive streaks by three more games. After the weekend’s string of successes, both the Panthers and Lady Panthers each enjoy seven-game winning streaks.
The Lady Panthers opened the weekend’s first competition on Jan. 15 with the team’s first hundred-point victory of the season over the region 1-AAAA Cairo High School Lady Syrupmakers in Cairo. The Americus girls trounced their hosts in that contest, finishing the game with a 101-43 advantage.
The next afternoon, the Lady Panthers returned to their home court after several weeks on the road to take on visiting region foes, the Thomas County Central (TCC) Lady Yellowjackets. The ASHS girls wrapped up this contest in similar fashion, earning a 61-17 victory over their visiting foes. The match also marked an important milestone for point guard, Atyanna Gaulden, who scored her 1,000th career point in the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers traveled to Macon for the Copeland Classic tourney on Jan. 18, gaining yet another win.
In boys’ action, the Panthers had a very successful weekend as well, bulldozing their way to a pair of region victories over Cairo and TCC. The Panthers bested the Syrupmakers 77-21 in Cairo on Jan. 15 and rode that momentum to a 80-31 trouncing of the Yellowjackets in Americus.
With the trio of wins, the Lady Panthers improve their impressive season record to 17-1 on the 2015-16 season while remaining undefeated in region play after nine matches.
After the weekend’s match-ups, the Panthers improved their overall record to 11-6, bumping up the team’s region record to 5-3.
The Lady Panthers jumped out early in the first contest of the series, outscoring their Cairo hosts 28-11 in the first frame. From there, the Americus girls never looked back, plowing their way over the next 24 minutes to the 58-point win at 101-43.
Gaulden led the team to victory with an impressive triple double, scoring 29 points, dishing out 10 assists, and contributing 12 steals to the win. Timia Swanson followed close behind, connecting on 81 percent of her attempts from the field while earning a double double of her own, tossing in another 29 points and bringing down 11 rebounds. Kayla Howard was the other Lady Panther to score double figures, tacking on 15 points to the win. Jakala Stevenson added another eight while Amber Hicks tossed in seven. Howard contributed five rebounds and five steals in the match. Hicks added another four rebounds and five steals for the Lady Panthers’ cause.
The following evening’s match followed a very similar for path for the Lady Panthers as the Americus girls climbed to another huge win at the Panther Den. The Lady Panthers held the visiting Lady ‘Jackets to only one point in the first quarter while tossing 17 up on the board. Gaulden laid up the game’s first score, which marked  her 1,000th career point since she began playing for the Lady Panthers.
Gaulden spoke about her accomplishment with the Times-Recorder following the match, saying, “It feels good. I felt like I would get it sooner or later. I’ve had consistent double-digit games… I feel good about it.” Asked how many more points she intends on scoring before the conclusion of the season, Gaulden laughed and joked, “I’m going for 500 more.”
After a brief ceremony in which Gaulden was presented with a commemorative ball to mark the significant milestone, the Lady Panthers continued their court domination, rolling over their opponents for the 61-17 win.
Gaulden connected on 70 percent of her attempts from the field on her way to 30 points for the team. Stevenson tossed in another eight points while Swanson contributed six.
Gaulden contributed seven steals and dished out five assists in the win. Hicks added another five steals while Howard and Swanson shared the lead on the boards, each pulling down five rebounds.
The Panthers mirrored the ASHS girls’ successes in their respective contests, traveling to Cairo to take down the Syrupmakers 77-21.
The Panthers grabbed a 14-4 lead over the Syrupmakers in the first frame. By half-time, the Americus boys had amassed a 33-9 advantage. The Panthers turned up the heat after returning from the break, adding 25 points while holding their hosts to only four. The carnage continued in the fourth period, eventually sentencing Cairo to the 77-21 loss.
The Panthers continued their court domination the next evening, returning to their home court to take on TCC. Though the Yellowjackets opened the scoring with a free throw one minute into the action, the Panthers took off on a 23-6 run sparked by a long three-pointer from the hand of Eric Hall.
The run lasted for the remainder of the initial period and featured some of the most aggressive competition that Panther fans have seen from the ASHS boys this season. Over the seven minute duration of the run, Stephon Luster and Eric Brown both converted steals into lay-ups while Hall tipped in an errant three-point attempt for the Panther cause. Ben Walters followed an adept block with a lay-up for the Panthers and Aiden Sanford, Luster, and Hall each dished out assists in the first frame. The icing on the blue and white cake for the Panthers, however, was an expert alley-oop tossed up by Hall and stuffed into the bucket by Kiante Sims to the delight of the crowd..
The Panthers continued to pull ahead in the second stanza in an eight-minute spell that started with a tip-in by Sanford, followed by a perimeter shot by Michael Terry. Scottie Sheffield, Walters, and Bryant all tossed in baskets for the Panthers before the half-time break as well. The first half was book-ended by another alley-oop jammed in by Sims but, this time, served up by Brown to the roar of the home crowd.
With a 46-12 lead at the break, the Panthers eased up on their aggressive offense, leading to TCC posting their most productive stanza of the contest. The third quarter saw the Panthers give up 14 points while adding another 18 to their own tally. The Yellowjackets would not be so lucky in the fourth, however, as the visitors managed to add only five more to their total while the Panthers tacked on an extra 16.
The Panthers traveled to Macon on Jan. 23 to take on the Northeast High Raiders in a non-conference match-up as part of the Copeland Classic tournament. The ASHS boys took down their non-region opponents 79-60 in the tourney.
The Panthers return to region play on Jan. 23 in Albany, battling the Dougherty County Trojans. The ASHS boys return to the Panther Den on Jan. 26, hosting the Monroe Tornadoes.
The Lady Panthers took on Thomasville High on Jan. 18 as part of the Copeland Classic. The Americus girls took a 64-47 win in the contest.
ASHS’ girls return to the court in Albany on Jan. 23, facing 1-AAAA opponents, Dougherty County. The Lady Panthers return to their home court on Jan. 26 to take on Monroe.

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder: ASHS’ Atyanna Gaulden follows a steal with a lay-up during the Lady Panthers’ Jan. 16 match in Americus. Gaulden scored her one-thousandth career point early in this contest.

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:
ASHS’ Atyanna Gaulden follows a steal with a lay-up during the Lady Panthers’ Jan. 16 match in Americus. Gaulden scored her one-thousandth career point early in this contest.