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After slow start, Lady Panthers roll on Senior Night

AMERICUS – After a surprisingly slow start against Westover (WHS) in the first quarter, the Americus-Sumter Lady Panther basketball team (23-1, 15-1) jumped out to a 24-14 lead by the end of the first quarter and took the game over from there on out to defeat the Lady Patriots 76-35 on Saturday, February 1, at Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS).

It was Senior Night at ASHS and for seniors Jelissa Reese, Trinity Jones, Divine White, Brianna Pope and DeAsia Ford; it was a fitting, memorable end to a fantastic regular season.

 

Jones led all scorers with 29 points and Reese poured in 23. Trinity Jackson was also in double figures with 10 points. DeAsia Ford scored six points and both Brianna Pope and Divine White each had four points to round out the Lady Panthers’ scoring.

The Lady Panthers dominated from start to finish in a 76-16 drubbing of WHS in Albany four weeks ago, but the Lady Patriots came to play and made it competitive in the first quarter of the second meeting.

Americus-Sumter senior guard Divine White drives grabs a rebound against Westover. White scored four points in the game.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Reese capped off an early 8-2 run by the Lady Panthers when she hit a jump shot, but WHS fought back. The Lady Patriots went on a 10-2 run of their own to take a 12-10 lead. During this part of the game, ASHS struggled to hit easy shots, which kept them from using their full-court press to disrupt the WHS offense. That is normally how they are able to jump on teams early.

However, with the score tied at 14-14 late in the first quarter, Reese nailed a three-pointer. That was the beginning of a 10-0 run by ASHS. Once they started hitting shots, the Lady Panthers were able to use their full-court pressure and jumped out to a 24-14 lead by the quarter’s end.

Americus-Sumter senior shooting guard Jelissa Reese scored 23 points in the Lady Panthers’ 76-35 victory over Westover on Senior Night at Americus-Sumter High School.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

With 5:42 to go in the second quarter, Jones knocked down a three-pointer to cap off 5-2 run by ASHS. However, unlike the first meeting between these two teams, the Lady Patriots kept hanging around in the second quarter and didn’t let the ASHS lead get out of hand.

But things began to change late in the first half. By the two-minute mark of the second quarter, the Lady Panthers had built up a 37-16 lead, which was capped off with a basket from Jackson. She would later score again just before the half ended to give ASHS a 39-16 halftime lead.

Both teams evenly played the first three and a half minutes of the third quarter. Both teams traded baskets, but the Lady Panthers still enjoyed a 49-22 advantage.

Americus-Sumter senior guard DeAsia Ford dives on the floor for the ball. Ford scored six points in the win on Senior Night.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

With a little over two minutes left in the third, Reese drove to the basket and scored to give ASHS a 51-24 lead. However, the Lady Panthers went on a 9-2 run to close out the quarter and led 60-26 to start the fourth.

In the final stanza, it was all Lady Panthers. ASHS jumped out to a 69-31 lead. That included a basket by Reese, which was scored when Jones threw the ball off the backboard and Reese was there for the put back. The Lady Panthers would go on to win 76-35.

The Lady Patriots (6-15, 6-10) were led in scoring by Kameron Shelley with 14 points.

The Lady Panthers will now turn their attention to the upcoming Region 1-AAAA Tournament. Being that they finished at the top of the region standings for the regular season, the Lady Panthers have already booked themselves a spot in the semifinals. They will play the lowest remaining seed in the tournament on Thursday, February 6, at ASHS. Tip off for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Should they win, the Lady Panthers will compete in the tournament finals on Friday, February 7, at ASHS. Start time for that game is TBD.

From there, it’s on to the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AAAA State Playoffs. Two years ago, with just seven players, the Lady Panthers made it all the way to the state semifinals. This year, this senior-laden ASHS team is poised and ready to bring a state championship back to Americus and Sumter County.