Panthers crowned area champions

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Georgiana once again proved the predominant Panthers on the prowl Saturday by blasting the visiting J.F. Shields Panthers 70-38, claiming the Class 1A Area 3 championship in the process.

Both teams were off to a sluggish start, though not for lack of effort as both Panthers teams’ defenses dictated the pace of the early game.

JaMichael Stallworth got the ball rolling for Georgiana almost immediately from the opening tip with an uncontested layup, but a number of shots missed their mark in the minutes to follow despite the open looks.

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And though J.F. Shields suffered similar struggles—thanks largely in part to a smothering Georgiana press—the visiting Panthers clung firmly to Georgiana’s heels, keeping the deficit to single digits at the close of the first quarter.

Kenan McCreary further encroached on the Georgiana lead with a slicing attack through an open lane for a much-needed layup to start J.F. Shields in the second.

Clarence Curry maintained an offensive presence from the Georgiana bench with a putback, followed by a 3-point play after drawing a foul in the paint.

Shields’ backcourt finally began to succumb to the stifling Georgiana full court press at the 5-minute mark in the second, giving way to turnovers and easy Georgiana buckets.

The lead blossomed to 19 with less than 3 minutes remaining after a thunderous dunk from Nizaiah Smith.

Despite the floundering start, Georgiana’s dormant engines roared to life to close out the half, culminating in a 36-10 lead at the half.

Down but not out, J.F. Shields came out guns blazing in the third thanks to sharpshooter Jadereyan Stallworth’s accuracy behind the 3-point line.

The shields’ second-half offense continued to find an offensive rhythm with outside jumpers, eclipsing their first-half production within the first 3 minutes of the third quarter.

Unfortunately, Shields’ improved offense did little to slow Georgiana nigh-unstoppable and even-spread scoring in the second half.

Though the fourth quarter proved just as slow as the first for both teams—Nizaiah Smith’s free throw with 5:43 remaining in the game was the first point of the fourth quarter—the slow pace benefitted Georgiana much more as time proved the real enemy for J.F. Shields.

A strong bench performance, punctuated by a beautiful 3-point play from Kenderius Mobley at the top of the quarter, kept Georgiana aloft to secure the win.

Five players finished with double digits for Georgiana, including Jacquez Payton’s 14 points, Clarence Curry’s 13 points, Richard Boggan’s 12 points and 12 rebounds, 12 points from Nizaiah Smith and 10 points from JaMichael Stallworth.

Kenan McCreary led J.F. Shields with 10 points.

Georgiana hosted Linden on Tuesday, though results weren’t available at press time.