Panthers edge out Laney in first round of state playoffs

Published 12:47 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Panthers (SCHS) were able to make enough plays down the stretch to edge out the Laney Wildcats (LHS) by the score of 50-47 in the first round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs Wednesday night at the Panther Pit.

“My guys, I’ve got to just say we kept fighting,” SCHS Head Coach Johnny Genwright said. “They didn’t give up. They kept fighting till the end of the game. We missed some key free throws right there to close it out. We missed easy baskets as well. All in all, I told my guys that we were going to have to keep fighting and whoever has one basket more than the other wins. I’m just proud of my guys for not giving up and fighting.”

Free throws played a key role in the Panthers victory. They shot 11 of 15 in the first half and 20 of 33 for the game, while the Wildcats made only 9 of 21 free throws for the game.

Javoris Scott led the Panthers in scoring with 18 points, Michael Terry had nine points and Corey Wright chipped in eight in the winning cause.

The Panthers did not score a point in the first quarter until Thomas Mays scored on a layup with a little over 2:30 to go in the quarter. Both teams were struggling offensively for much of the first quarter, but the Panthers were able to go on a 7-2 run and took a 10-5 lead by the quarter’s end.

Early in the second quarter, Scott gave the Panthers a 13-5 lead on a three-pointer, but the Wildcats responded with five points before a technical foul was called against LHS. Scott made both free throws and the Panthers had a 15-10 lead.

Sumter County senior guard Javin Lewis scored six points in the Panthers’ win over Laney.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Over the next few minutes, both teams traded baskets, but with a little over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run and cut the Panthers’ lead to 20-18. However, the Panthers were able to hold on to the lead and went into halftime leading 24-21.

As they did throughout the first half, the Wildcats went to a full-court press to start the second half, but as was the case in the first half, the Panthers were able to break the press. As the third quarter continued, both teams continued to trade baskets, but the Wildcats would tie the game at 29-29 on a basket by Mekhi Nelson. Shortly thereafter, LHS would take the lead on a three-pointer by Dewon Simmons. Then with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Tyler Richards extended the Wildcats’ lead to 35-31 on a three-pointer. The Panthers, who had led most of the way, were now trailing by four points late in the third quarter.

However, as the clock was counting down to end the third quarter, Anthony Tyson drove the ball straight to the basket and scored on a layup, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 36-35.

Over the first couple of minutes of the fourth quarter, both teams traded baskets, but the Panthers would take a 39-38 lead when Javin Lewis drove to the basket and scored. Lewis was fouled on the play and made the free throw to complete the three-point play. Shortly thereafter, Scott scored on the dribble drive and the Panthers had a 42-38 lead with 5:18 to go in the game. This was part of a 9-2 run by the Panthers that culminated with a basket by Michael Terry, making the score 46-40 in favor of SCHS.

After timeout was called, the Panthers continued to extend their lead, as Scott would score again. They also benefited from poor foul shooting by the Wildcats, as they would miss four straight free throws.

After timeout was called with 2:27 to go, Nelson would score a basket to cut the Panthers’ lead to 48-42, but a technical foul was called against SCHS. Nick Robinson was able to make one of two free throws for LHS, but Michael Terry was fouled at the other end and he made one of two foul shots as well. Robinson was able to score for the Wildcats, making the score 49-47 in favor of the Panthers, but with 12.7 seconds to go, Javin Lewis made one of two foul shots to give the Panthers a 50-47 lead.

LHS called a timeout with 9.3 seconds left, but out of the timeout, the Panthers got a steal and were able to salt away a 50-47 victory.

LHS finishes their season with a record of 13-16.

The Panthers (13-16) will host Southwest Macon in the second round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs on Saturday. Game time is still to be determined.