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Consistency to prove key for Georgiana in Final Four faceoff

Jacquez Payton and the Georgiana Panthers will face a talented Marion County Red Raiders team Monday morning at 10:30 a.m.

Jacquez Payton and the Georgiana Panthers will face a talented Marion County Red Raiders team Monday morning at 10:30 a.m.

The Georgiana Panthers’ admission into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Final Four was a fleeting kind of joy Monday evening.

Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris told his Panthers to enjoy it Monday evening, because the very next day would be business as usual.

“The next day we started looking at the film,” Norris said.

“We can’t dwell on that one.  It’s good to be happy about it, but opportunities like this don’t come along very often.  You’ve got to make the most of it and focus on what’s ahead of you and not what’s in the past.”

And though Norris learned a great deal about the Panthers’ next opponent, the 18-11 Marion County Red Raiders, on film, it wasn’t exactly an exhaustive font of knowledge.

“It’s hard to tell on film, and you won’t really know how good they are until you step out on that floor with them,” Norris said.

“But they’re very skilled.  They shoot the ball very well.  They’re well coached.  I wouldn’t say they play at the same tempo that we do, but they’re not slow. They don’t quite have as much depth as we do, but the guys they are playing are very good players. They’ve got an experienced group and a few guys that are maybe new to the varsity level, but they’re just a very balanced team.”

Norris added that they’re also a decently sized team, with a 6-foot-5 man on the inside as well as a talented freshman, the 6-foot-2 Braden Pyrin, at the forward position.

But venturing into the unknown isn’t a wholly new sensation for the Panthers.  The team did it earlier this season by coming out on top against a very tough Pike County Bulldogs team—a team now on their way to their own Final Four faceoff after eliminating Hillcrest-Evergreen, the team responsible for the Panthers’ sole loss this season.

But Norris said that winning a basketball game is more than a measure of athleticism and stats.

“It’s also about who’s hot at the right time and who’s playing their best,” Norris said.

“Just look at Kentucky last year in the NCAA.  It’s a matter of who’s playing the best ball, who’s playing together, and who’s mentally focused.  You’re 30-something games into the season and it’s been three or four months of practice or a ball game every day.  So it’s about who’s more mentally focused at this time of the year.”

The Panthers’ region finals performance against A.L. Johnson didn’t leave much to be desired, but for Norris, there’s always something to improve upon.

Being good is one thing, but being consistently good is another thing altogether.

“I think the biggest thing in that game the other night was we played a four-quarter game and it didn’t take us a while to get in the game,” Norris said.

“If you don’t come out and play at the level you’re capable of for the whole game, this is when it matters the most.  And a really good team—which is all you’re going to see now—will make you pay.

The Panthers will square off with the Red Raiders Monday at 10:30 a.m.