Landmark Panthers season ends in loss
The most memorable basketball season in Georgiana’s history came to a close Thursday as the Panthers fell to the Sacred Heart Catholic Cardinals, now back-to-back Class 1A state champions.
Though the Cardinals would eventually fly away with a 95-75 victory, the Panthers kept it close in the opening minutes. In fact, the first quarter proved an incredibly defensive struggle until Richard Boggan shattered the silence with a potential 3-point play roughly two minutes in.
A 3-pointer from JaMichael Stallworth helped the Panthers trade buckets with the Cardinals in the subsequent minutes, but foul trouble quickly accumulated for the Panthers as the team earned its fourth team foul in three minutes.
A 3-pointer followed by a fast-break layup forced a rare 30-second timeout from the Panthers’ bench, but the Cardinals’ oppressive defense negated Georgiana’s attempt to recompose.
The Panthers’ deficit swelled to double digits as Kevion Nolan proved problematic both as a scorer and a facilitator, finding forward Samuel Miller for a buzzer beater layup to make the lead 13 at the end of 1.
Sacred Heart’s run continued well into the second as the lead grew to 19, but Jacquez Payton ended the drought with a pair of free throws and a follow-up 3-point play.
But the biggest problem for the Panthers—the 6-foot-5 sophomore Diante Wood—ran unchecked in the paint, using his height and wingspan to maximum advantage for a sequence of easy buckets.
Despite another 3-pointer from sharpshooter Kevion Nolan at the top of the second half, the Panthers steadily chipped away at the Cardinals’ lead.
A remarkable sequence from Boggan saw the forward earning a rebound and putback, a steal on the following inbound pass and drawing a foul on a layup attempt all within a 10-second timeframe.
Though the Panthers cut it to 11, another Sacred Heart run—this time spurred on by guard DJ Heath, put the Cardinals well out of reach.
The fourth quarter proved a quarter of runs as Georgiana opened with a 6-0 start, but time ultimately favored Sacred Heart as the Cardinals kept the Panthers at bay with a torrent of 3-pointers, including an insult-to-injury 3-pointer from Caleb Lafollette in the game’s final seconds.
Richard Boggan led the Panthers with 25 points on 10 of 12 field goal attempts and 15 rebounds.
Jamichael Stallworth ended the night with 18 points and Jacquez Payton finished with 16 points on the night and 1,852 career points, which head Georgiana basketball coach Kirk Norris believes to be a school record.
Though the Panthers were disappointed with the result, Norris said that this year’s team–as well as the teams before it– have laid a solid foundation for basketball at Georgiana for years to come.
“When you think of Georgiana, you think of basketball,” Norris said. “These guys have got it that way the last four or five years.”
Stallworth, a sophomore, will return with the Panthers next season, and this season’s playoff experience has only fueled his future ambitions.
“Kids want to play on this level, so this is definitely motivation,” Stallworth said.
“We want to come back strong and we want to come back better. We want to come back and we want to win.”