Panthers improve to 23-0 with win over Tigers

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Though Georgiana found itself without its leading scorer Saturday, the undefeated Panthers remained so by fending off a Greenville Tigers team on the hunt for revenge for an earlier loss.

The 61-53 Panther victory over the Tigers propels Georgiana to a 23-0 record with only two regular season games remaining on the schedule, and Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris said that Saturday’s faceoff was one of the toughest.

“I think our kids stepped up to the challenge because we may not see another environment as hostile—and not in a bad way—being on another team’s floor,” Norris said.

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“The environment sometimes can cause a team to falter a little bit and not play as well as they do maybe at home. So I was proud of our kids.  They played hard and stepped up to the challenge.”

To make matters worse for the Panthers, the team hit the hardwood without its leading scorer and primary ball handler, Jacquez Payton, due to a sprained knee sustained earlier that week against Straughn.

It was a weakness that the Greenville defense tried to take advantage of by pressing all night, though the Panthers still jumped out to an 8-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

However, the Greenville defense continued to chip away at the Panthers’ lead, trimming it to 5 points at the half and just 1 point at the close of the third quarter.

The Tigers eventually took the lead at the top of the fourth, though one of Georgiana’s big men silenced the Greenville crowd just as quickly.

“On the next possession, Nizaiah Smith had a dunk probably five seconds after they took the lead,” Norris said.

“We kept it until then, and made some big shots and played pretty good defense down the stretch.  We kind of had a lull in the third quarter and kept it closer than we would’ve liked it to be, but we ultimately came out with the win.

“There were just two athletic teams playing the other night.  There were probably six or seven dunks the whole game—the gym was rocking.”

Norris said the team’s 23rd win and undefeated record mean less than seeing his team enter hostile territory and walk away with a victory despite missing one of its senior captains.

“We had some guys that weren’t playing near as much have to step up and carry the bulk of those minutes that (Jacquez) was getting,” Norris said.

“They pressed us the whole game, and I figured they would if they knew he was out. But the old saying is ‘next man up.’ They accepted the challenge and pulled us through.”

Richard Boggan led the Panthers with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Nizaiah Smith also posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Georgiana, and JaMichael Stallworth added 15 points to the Panthers’ total.

Jonathan Powell led the Tigers with 14 points, and Charles Warren also reached double-digits with 10.

Georgiana will travel to Evergreen on Thursday and host J.U. Blacksher Friday for senior night.