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Panthers’ 10-0 run to end third quarter leads to victory over Carver

COLUMBUS – Up until the last two minutes of the third quarter, the rematch between the Americus-Sumter Panthers (ASHS) and the defending Class AAAA State Champion Carver Tigers looked as if it was going to go down to the wire. However, with 1:48 to go in the third quarter, ASHS scored 10 unanswered points, including a half-court desperation shot by Trae Brown, to take a 51-38 lead. The Panthers were able to maintain that lead in the fourth quarter and went on to clinch a 61-52 victory over the Tigers on Saturday, January 18, at Carver High School (CHS).

With the win, ASHS improves its unblemished record to 17-0 and sits a top the Region 1-AAAA standings at 9-0.

Before Saturday’s rematch against the Tigers, the Panthers took care of business on Tuesday, January 14, when they defeated the Shaw Raiders 77-42.

Brown led all scorers with 25 points, including four three-pointers. Jordan Wiley poured in nine points and Kanova Willoughby chipped in six in the win over CHS.

Unlike the first contest of the year between the two teams on Friday, January 10, in which the Panthers drubbed CHS 67-38, the Tigers (12-6, 9-2) had a much stronger performance in the rematch. CHS jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game. However, ASHS regrouped and outscored the Tigers 8-6 over the next couple of minutes to take a 14-12 lead. After Astarion Riggins hit one of two foul shots for CHS, Le”Shanna Ross knocked down a three-pointer to give the Panthers a 17-13 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Americus-Sumter junior small forward Jordan Wiley (11) goes up for a tip in against Carver. Wiley scored nine points in the win over the Tigers.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The second quarter started out just like the first. The Tigers went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-17 lead. Then with 4:03 to go, Riggins scored on the inside and was fouled. He made the three-point play to give the Tigers a 24-18 lead.

The Panthers were able to get to within three at 25-22 with free throws from Keldrick Flemming and Wallace Bradley. Then Ross hit another three-pointer to tie the game at 25-25 with a little over two minutes left in the half. Then with under a minute left, Brown tied the game on a three-pointer. As the seconds on the clock ticked down to end the first half, Brown drilled another three-pointer to give the Panthers a 33-30 lead at halftime.

Brown scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, including three shots from beyond the arc.

During the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter, both teams traded baskets, but A’jarrien Banks hit two free throws to give ASHS a 37-33 lead.

Americus-Sumter senior point guard Melton McCoy directs the Panthers’ offense. McCoy scored two points in the win over CHS.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

After two missed free throws by Riggins, Brown found Flemming at the other end for a basket to increase the Panthers’ lead to 39-33. The Tigers got back to within four on Sebian Tate’s short jumper and the score was 39-35 ASHS when timeout was called with 3:35 left in the third quarter. With 1:48 to go, the Panthers still had a slim 41-38 lead, but Flemming was able to hit one of two free throws to increase the lead to four.

During this point of the game, the Tigers had opportunities to make a run, but they struggled on offense and committed unforced turnovers, which allowed ASHS to keep the lead. The Panthers made CHS pay as they forced more turnovers and went on a 6-0 run to take a 10-point lead.

Americus-Sumter senior shooting guard JaKontist Gordon (12) advances the ball up the court against Carver.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Then came what some might describe as the “nail in the coffin” for CHS. Just before the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter, Brown let loose a shot from behind half court that hit nothing but net. That caused the ASHS crowd to erupt and it gave the Panthers a 51-38 lead. It was a lead they would not relinquish. In total, the Panthers scored 10 unanswered points to finish off the third quarter.

The Tigers made a run in the fourth quarter and cut the Panthers’ lead to 58-52, but that would be as close as they would get. ASHS was able to make defensive stops and held on to the 61-52 victory.

For the Tigers, they had three players score in double figures. Tate led CHS in scoring with 14 points and Riggins scored 13. Richard Nelson chipped in 12 points in the losing cause.

The Panthers will now turn their attention to their Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday game on Monday, January 20, at Monroe in Albany. For the ASHS players and coaching staff, this is going to be a reuniting with former ASHS boys’ coach Michael Hoffpauir, who is now the head coach of the Monroe Golden Tornadoes (15-5, 4-0 in Region 1-AAA). Tip off for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.