Sumter County’s season ends with loss to Westside in second round

Published 9:03 pm Sunday, February 26, 2023

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AUGUSTA – After one half of play between the visiting Sumter County Panthers (SCHS) and the Westside Patriots (WHS), it seemed as if the Panthers had a chance to pull off a road upset in the second round of the GHSA Class AA state boys’ basketball tournament. However, as a result of a 25-9 run by the Patriots in the third quarter, coupled by two technical fouls against the Panthers, the hopes SCHS had of an upsetting the Patriots completely went up in smoke and the Panthers went on to end their season with an 82-49 loss to WHS on Saturday, February 25, at Westside High School in Augusta.

This was a game in which the Panthers (19-9) struggled with turnovers, especially in the second half. This was partly due to the defensive pressure of the Patriots and partly due to unforced errors. In either case, WHS (22-7) took advantage and dominated SCHS in the second half on its way to an 82-49 victory and a berth in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

In spite of the disappointing loss, SCHS Head Coach Johnny Genwright was extremely proud of his team for the way it fought throughout the contest, especially through some unfortunate circumstances.

“I am proud of my guys. They came into the game and fought. They listened to the game plan and they believed,” Genwright said. “The first half was where we wanted it. However, some questionable calls put my guys in foul trouble and I saw the air being taken from my guys piece by piece. They have nothing to hang their heads about. They came and played a great, talented Westside Augusta team and didn’t back down from the challenge. However, the second half didn’t go how we expected.

My guys played aggressive. Both teams played aggressive. However, with the foul count being 14 to 5 in the first half, my guys had to play less aggressively and that wasn’t the game plan. It was a wonderful season. Good luck to my seniors. l enjoyed this great group of young men. I love these guys,” Genwright continued.

For 10 SCHS seniors, Cameron Evans, D.J. Hurley, Canaan Jackson, La’Travus Angry, Brandon Pope, Devon Dowdell, Traveon Lamar, Kavon Lewis, Ty’Quavious Hurley and Darkaryn Hurley, it was their final game as Sumter County Panthers.

Cameron Evans (#4) competes for the Panthers against the Westside Patriots in the second round of the state playoffs. Evans scored five points in the contest.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Brandon Pope led the Panthers in scoring with nine points and both Kavon Lewis and Canaan Jackson each had eight points. La’Travus Angry chipped in six points and both D.J. Hurley and Cameron Evans scored five points in the losing cause.

Both teams traded baskets during the first few minutes of the game, but after a three-pointer by Evans and a basket from Lewis, the Panthers had a 10-6 lead. However, the Patriots responded by going on a 12-5 run and closed out the first quarter with an 18-15 lead.

SCHS struggled offensively during the first three minutes of the second quarter and WHS took advantage by going on a 6-2 run that included a one-handed dunk by Jalex Ewing and a basket by Jarius Adkinson. However, Angry brought the Panthers to within five at 24-19 on two made foul shots and Pope would get fouled and sink two more free throws to get SCHS within three at 24-21.

The Patriots had a response, however. Over the final three minutes of the first half, WHS forced a few turnovers and went on a 9-4 run to take a 33-25 lead at the half.

Both Pope and D.J. Hurley each had five points in the first half to lead the Panthers’ attack.

In the third quarter, things began to unravel for the Panthers, as the Patriots went on an 11-1 run over the first three minutes and capped off that run with a three-pointer by Demarco Middleton. That 11-1 run by the Patriots would turn out to be the beginning of the end for SCHS.

During this period of the game, SCHS struggled with turnovers, both as a result of the defensive pressure from WHS and due to unforced errors. Shortly after Middleton’s three-pointer, Ewing electrified the WHS crowd with another one-handed dunk and the Panthers would find themselves trailing 50-34 with around 2:30 to go in the third quarter.

Shortly thereafter, SCHS fell further behind when Xavier Goss gave WHS a 53-34 lead on a three-pointer. This was all part of a 25-9 run by the Patriots, which was capped off with a basket and a free throw by Goss, who was fouled in the act of shooting. With 46 seconds left in the third quarter, the Panthers were trailing 60-34 before Pope sank two foul shots, but the Patriots scored four more points in transition and SCHS found itself in a deep hole, trailing 64-38.

Sumter County senior forward L’Travus Angry scores two of his six points against Westside.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Just before the third quarter ended, things got even worse for SCHS, as Middleton was fouled on a three-point attempt at the buzzer. Middleton made two of his three free throws, but due to a technical foul called on the Panthers’ Anthony Tyson, the Patriots were awarded two more foul shots. AuMauri Tillman made both foul shots and the Panthers were facing the end of their season with only eight more minutes to do something about it.

Then with 5:38 to go in the game, a frustrated Genwright was assessed a technical foul for arguing with the officials and Tillman sank two more foul shots. Shortly thereafter, Tillman struck again with a three-pointer. In a matter of 12 minutes or thereabouts, the Panthers’ plans of pulling off an upset over WHS on the road in the state playoffs had deteriorated rapidly, as they trailed 73-40 with about four minutes left to play.

In spite of the adverse circumstances, the Panthers continued to fight hard the rest of the way, but their season would come to an end with an 82-49 loss at the hands of WHS.

The Patriots were led in scoring by Demarco Middleton, who had 17 points. Xavier Goss poured in 14 points and Jalex Ewing had 11 in the winning cause.

WHS will advance to the state quarterfinals and will host South Atlanta on either Tuesday or Wednesday. South Atlanta defeated North Murray in the second round by the score of 72-63.