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Panthers, Tigers’ rivalry continues in Round 1 of area tournament

Chris Shufford and the McKenzie Tigers seek their first win over the 24-1 Georgiana Panthers Thursday.

Chris Shufford and the McKenzie Tigers seek their first win over the 24-1 Georgiana Panthers Thursday.

The Georgiana varsity boys received the only blemish on an otherwise sterling regular season record Thursday as the Class 3A Hillcrest Evergreen Jaguars stunned the Panthers 60-55.

“We actually led most of the game… until about 1:30 to go,” said Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris.

“We couldn’t hold on at the end.”

Though the Panthers would bounce back the next night with a 90-56 win over J.U. Blacksher, Norris added that the sole loss on the regular season could serve as a wakeup call and, more importantly, as an opportunity to grow.

“One thing I talked to them about after the game is that nobody is ever going to try to lose a game, and I will never coach to lose a game, but you can learn stuff from a loss that you can’t get from a win,” Norris said.

“How to deal with adversity, how you bounce back—it shows a lot about your character.  It’s just like facing any kind of challenge.  If you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up and let it motivate you more.  And that’s kind of the approach we’re taking to it.”

The Panthers won’t have much time to dwell on those lessons, however, as the team will host the Class 1A Region 2 tournament on Thursday and Saturday.

The tourney will see the No. 1 seed Georgiana squaring off against the No. 4 seed McKenzie Tigers, as well as the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked J.F. Shields and Red Level respectively.

Norris said that though the previous two meetings with McKenzie will inform Thursday’s game, he expects the toughest McKenzie team of the season thus far.

“It’s a rivalry game, and I know they’re going to give us their best effort,” Norris said.

“We’ve got to do the same.  Once you get to this point in the year, anything can happen.  If you’re not prepared and you don’t come out and play your best,

We’re preparing to play our best game every night, no matter who it is, and that’s what we’re doing for Thursday.”

The Lady Panthers of Georgiana faced Red Level Tuesday, though results weren’t available at press time.

The Lady Panthers have had a tumultuous season thus far, but Norris is confident that his team is a forced to be reckoned with.

“We’ve kind of been up and down this year with the girls,” Norris said. “We’re very inconsistent to this point, and I’m hoping we can get some of that inconsistency out and play well because I know what we’re capable of.

“Some nights we’ll come out and play really well, and some nights we’ll come out and play well in the second half and not in the first.  We’ve got to try to put a full game together, and I think when they do they’ve got a chance to go very far.”