Panthers fall in championship game of Thanksgiving Clash

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It was a battle of David-versus-Goliath proportions as Class 1A Georgiana School squared off with Class 5A Booker T. Washington High School in the championship round of the Thanksgiving Clash basketball tournament in Georgiana.

However, the Panthers bit off a bit more than they could chew as the Golden Eagles pulled away late in the fourth to claim a 65-48 victory.

What began as a three-point deficit at the half grew into an unmanageable situation as missed opportunities quickly turned into points for Booker T. Washington in transition.

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To make matters worse, the Panthers struggled to sink shots both beyond the perimeter and at the free throw line.

“I think we wound up missing 13 or 14 total free throws,” said Georgiana head coach Kirk Norris. “I think we’ve got some stuff to clean up and we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the second half, especially from the free throw line. We just didn’t make the most of the opportunities we were given.”

Jacquez Payton tried to even things up for the Panthers before the half with a seven-point swing, including a momentum-changing dunk and a laser-guided three-pointer, but rebounding woes facilitated Booker T. Washington’s quick comeback.

The Golden Eagles’ overbearing presence in the paint, led by the towering center Cortez Gibbs, disrupted any sense of rhythm that the Panthers could find inside.

With nearly a half-foot of advantage over the nearest defender, Gibbs proved an imposing figure inside for Georgiana the entire night.

“He hurt us a little bit, but I think our guys stepped up to the challenge and we were physical with him,” Norris said. “But at 6-foot-5, it was a tough matchup for us.”

While the Panthers struggled inside, Quindravis Gibbs and tournament MVP Kjamus Sanders lit it up from beyond the arc for the Golden Eagles with threes that quickly put the game out of reach in the final minutes of play.

Despite the struggles, or perhaps because of them, Norris said that the tournament matchup with the Golden Eagles was a vital experience for his team.

“I told our guys after the game that it was a good measuring stick to see where we were, and I wasn’t disappointed with our guys’ effort. They played as hard as they could,” Norris said. “I think it was good to see, because we’re going to play some good teams in our region, but I don’t think we’ll see anybody with that kind of size and athleticism combined like they had.”

Payton led the Panthers with 19 points, and Tarien Crittenden contributed 13 points.

Cortez Gibbs and Qundravis Gibbs each posted 20 points for the Golden Eagles.

All four players, alongside Sanders, were chosen for the all-tournament team.