Panthers overrun Houston County

Published 6:37 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

Georgiana’s Nizaiah Smith finished with another double-double performance Tuesday night with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Georgiana’s Nizaiah Smith finished with another double-double performance Tuesday night with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

It’s a rare opportunity for the seasoned Georgiana Panthers varsity boys basketball team to face a new opponent, but it’s exactly what happened in subregional play Tuesday night as the Panthers hosted the Lions.

A close first quarter gave way to an all-Panthers second quarter, however, as Georgiana’s signature stifling full-court pressure proved too much for a young, but talented, Houston County squad as the Panthers walked away with a 64-45 win and a trip to Dothan’s South Regional tournament.

The Panthers improved to 25-2 in the process.

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Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris said that unfamiliarity didn’t prove much of a factor for his team Tuesday night.

“I talked to several coaches who had played them, and we watched film a day or so to see what they did,” Norris said.

“They were a very athletic team, and they’ve got a good bunch.  They only had two seniors, so they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future.”

The Panthers only led by 3 points at the end of the first quarter, but everything changed in the second as Georgiana built a lead that they would maintain for the duration of the night.

“But I think once we got settled in, we stepped our defense and put some pressure on them.  We got some stops, and that put us up 20 at halftime,” Norris said.

“From that point on, I told them not to take the foot off the gas and extend that lead as much as we could.

“We got up to 30 at one point, and I tried to rest my starters and let my younger guys get a little experience.  All around, I thought we played a pretty decent game, and I hope we can keep that going.”

Norris said that the Panthers’ wealth of playoff experience, cultivated in the past several years in trips to Dothan and Birmingham, proved crucial in Tuesday’s win.

That same experience will be just as beneficial this year as the team prepares for the South Regional tournament in Dothan.

Speaking of experience, prior experience late last year could inform the next stage as Georgiana braces for J.F. Shields, a team that the Panthers have already defeated twice—once handily at home, and another far closer competition on the road.

Norris said that neither he nor the Panthers could afford to think of J.F. Shields in those terms, however.

“I think the mental factor of knowing that we beat them twice helps,” Norris said.

“They’re another team that is very athletic, and they match us pretty well.  We’ve got to play four quarters and take it one possession at a time.”

If the Panthers prove successful against J.F. Shields, they will face either Linden or Pleasant Home next week, both known quantities to some extent. The Panthers defeated Linden in last year’s subregional game in Georgiana. Though Norris isn’t looking too far ahead just yet.

“I’m fairly familiar, I would say,

but we’ve got to worry about J.F. Shields,” Norris said. “If we take care of that one, then we’ll worry about the next one.”

Nizaiah Smith led the Panthers with another double-double performance of 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Jamichael Stallworth backed him up with 18 points.