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Panthers fall to Westover in Region 1-AAAA Championship

AMERICUS – Both teams, Westover and Americus-Sumter, were neck-in-neck in the region standings throughout the season. Americus-Sumter (24-3) edged out Westover for the number one seed in the Region 1-AAAA Boys Basketball Tournament. Both teams went through the tournament and, as most expected, faced each other in the region championship. It came down to free-throw shooting in the end. The Patriots shot 15 of 19 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, which was a factor in their 67-57 win over the Panthers. As a result, Westover won the Region 1-AAAA Championship.

“Our guys played hard. It’s been a long season. It’s been a tough season”, ASH Head Coach Michael Hoffpauir said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle and they (Westover) were going to bring their A game tonight.” While Hoffpauir knew that his team was beaten fair and square by an outstanding Westover team, he felt that the officiating, at times, made a difference. “It’s quite unfortunate that, in my opinion, the officials didn’t allow us to play the game out on the court, but I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of what we’ve done. We’re going to keep on moving forward, on to the next one.”

Eric Hall and Joshua Lusane led the Panthers in scoring with 16 points each. Traveon Brown was also in double-figures, scoring 11. Brown’s take on the game came down to one, simple thing: “They out hustled us. That’s it”, Brown said. For the Patriots (21-6), they had four players in double-figures. Camryn Weston led the Patriots with a game-high 21 points. Jordan Brown scored 18 points. Kris Gardner had 13 and Michael Isler had 10. Both teams shot well from the foul line. The Panthers were 20 of 28 (71%) and Westover was 19 of 27 (70%). The difference, however, was the Patriots ability to get to foul line much more often in the fourth quarter than the Panthers did. ASH got to the foul line eight times in the fourth quarter and shot 4 of 8 (50%).

The first quarter was a very hard-fought, back-and-forth affair between both teams, as one would expect in a region championship. Both teams were evenly matched and it showed on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter as Westover led 17-16.

The second quarter was no different, as both teams traded baskets. With the score 23-21 Westover late in the first half, Karmil Hamilton tied the game with a jumper. However, about a minute later, Westover had a 27-25 lead and was holding the ball for the last shot. They weren’t able to get it. Joshua Lusane hit two free throws to tie the game, but Westover was able to make two free throws before the half ended to give the Patriots a 29-27 lead.

Joshua Lusane was already in double-figures at halftime. He had 13 points to lead the Panthers’ first-half attack. Westover was led in the first half by Michael Isler with eight points.

Both teams played a hard-fought third quarter, with neither team able to generate much separation. However, the Patriots had a five-point lead at 43-38 by the start of the fourth quarter.

With 6:51 left in the game and Westover up 44-39, Jordan Brown was fouled and hit both free throws, giving the Patriots a 46-39 lead. Eric Hall nailed a three-pointer for the Panthers, forcing a timeout by Westover. Out of the timeout, Jordan Brown hit a three-pointer, putting the Patriots up by five. Traveon Brown responded for ASH as he hit a jumper, making it 49-44 Westover. The Patriots were able to score on a three-point play, giving them and eight-point lead. However, Traveon Brown nailed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 52-47. The Panthers were able to get another basket to cut the margin to three. Camryn Weston had a chance to extend the lead for Westover, but missed both free throws. Then with 3:51 to go, Joshua Lusane was fouled, but made one of two free throws. The score was 52-50 Westover with a little over three minutes to go. The Panthers tied the game on a fast-break basket by Karmil Hamilton with 3:09 left, forcing another timeout by the Patriots. The crowd was electrified, and one could feel the intensity as the game went down the stretch.

Westover took the lead when Michael Isler was fouled and made both free throws. Joshua Moore had a chance to tie the game for the Panthers, but could make only one free throw. Weston went to the line for the Patriots and was able to make both free throws with 2:12 to play. The Patriots led 56-53. This was crunch time. The team that could make more free throws would win. Traveon Brown had a chance to cut into the margin for the Panthers. He made one of two, and the score was 56-54 Westover with under two minutes left.

The Patriots were able to score on an in-bounds play to take a four-point lead. Hamilton tried a three-pointer for ASH, but it was no good. With 58.7 seconds left, Camryn Weston was fouled and went to the foul line. Weston made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 59-54. On the Panthers’ next possession, Lusane drove baseline, but was called for charging. Weston was fouled again, and made both free throws for Westover, making the score 61-54 Patriots. With 35.7 seconds left, Eric Hall was fouled, but could only make one free throw. With 33.9 seconds left, Westover’s Kris Gardner made one of two foul shots. However, the Patriots got the ball back and Weston scored on a dunk to give the Patriots a 64-55 lead, basically sealing the victory. Karmil Hamilton scored quickly for the Panthers, and ASH Head Coach Michael Hoffpauir called time out with 13.2 seconds left. However, it was too little, too late for Americus-Sumter, and they fell to Westover 67-57.

In spite of the loss, the Panthers have qualified for the GHSA Class 4A State Tournament as the number two seed out of Region 1-AAAA. They are guaranteed of hosting a first-round game.