Panthers’ 12-0 run in the first half leads to victory in first round

Published 1:46 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

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AMERICUS – After falling behind 10-3 in the first quarter to the Raiders of Northeast (Macon), the Sumter County Panthers (SCHS) woke up and responded with a 12-0 run and never looked back from then on out. They were able to maintain the lead the rest of the way and went on to defeat the NE Raiders 62-47 Wednesday night in the Panther Den in the first round of the GHSA Class AA State Tournament.

“We did come out a little nervous. The guys came out nervous,” SCHS Head Coach Johnny Genwright said. “I told them to settle down. I had faith in them that they would get it together and we did pick up at the right time. We started playing together. We started swinging the ball and making shots. That is a good Northeast team. They played hard. They didn’t give up and we had to fight to the end.”

Three Panthers scored in double figures. Cameron Evans led SCHS in scoring with 19 points, which included four three-pointers in the first half. Brandon Pope poured in 17 points and D.J. Hurley scored 11 in the winning cause.

The Panthers (19-8) got off to a slow start, as the Raiders jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Evans drained a three-pointer to put SCHS on the board.

Sumter County senior forward Brandon Pope scored 17 points in the Panthers’ first round win over Northeast.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

NE capped off another 5-0 run with a three-pointer from Justyn Taylor, but the Panthers came alive with a response. Thanks in part to a three-pointer from Hurley, SCHS went on a 12-0 run and took a 15-10 lead. Having been a sleep at the wheel in the early minutes of the game, the Panthers were now wide-awake and in control.
Over the next few minutes of the second quarter, SCHS stayed in control and jumped out to a 21-14 lead on another three-pointer from Evans. Shortly thereafter, Evans struck again with a jump shot from the top of the key and the Panthers had a nine-point lead at 23-14.

Over the remaining minutes of the first half, the Panthers used their defensive pressure to stifle the NE offense and went into halftime with a 30-18 lead.

Evans scored 14 of his game total of 19 points to lead SCHS in scoring in the first half and 12 of those points came on the strength of his four three-pointers. As a team, the Panthers made a total of six three-pointers on the night.

Early in the third quarter, the Raiders went on a 6-2 run and cut the SCHS lead to 32-24, but over the remainder of the quarter, the Panthers were able to maintain their lead, though NE’s Cadaricus Stanley would hit a three-pointer to bring the Raiders within seven at 43-36.

Sumter County senior guard D.J. Hurley scored 11 points in the Panthers’ 62-47 victory over Northeast (Macon) in the first round of the state tournament.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

However, over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, SCHS went on a 7-2 run that was capped off with a free throw from Evans. The Raiders were able to make a run and got to within seven at 54-47 with 1:40 to go in the game, but down the stretch, the Panthers made nine of their last 12 free throws to salt away their 62-47 victory.

The Raiders (12-15) were led in scoring by Cadricus Stanley, who scored 20 points on the night. Jatavion Zellner also scored in double figures for NE, as he had 14 points in the losing cause.

Sumter County junior shooting guard Braylon Terry pushes the ball up the court against Northeast.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The Panthers will head to Augusta on Saturday, February 25, where they will take on the Patriots of Westside (Augusta). Westside (21-7) defeated Vidalia 77-32 in its first round match up Wednesday night. Tip off for Saturday’s second round game from Augusta is scheduled for 4 p.m.