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Panthers fall to Cardinals in overtime

A trio of 3-pointers from Jamichael Stallworth in the fourth quarter–including a dizzying 27-footer from NBA range–put the Georgiana Panthers in overtime against their longtime nemesis, the Sacred Heart Cardinals.

But overtime belonged almost entirely to the Cardinals, who outpaced the Panthers 10-1 to claim a 65-56 victory. The win marked the Cardinals’ third such victory over the Panthers in the final four, and their fourth consecutive state championship.

For Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris, the winds were at the Panthers’ backs at the close of regulation.

“We just wanted to win those next four minutes,” Norris said. “We’d played well enough to have it tied at that point, and we’d been in an overtime game this year already, so I felt that our guys would be comfortable in that situation.”

What happened instead was that momentum swung one final time in the other direction, thanks largely to Sacred Guard point guard Quindarius Riggins, who posted 9 of the Cardinals’ 10 overtime points.

“They made a couple of plays early, and we didn’t,” Norris said.

“We missed our first three or four shots, even with good looks. We just had a hard time getting shots to fall in overtime, and we didn’t get the opportunities we needed.  Their guys just made plays in overtime, and we weren’t able to.”

Despite the difficult loss, Norris said that he couldn’t be more proud of his players–players who have come to redefine Georgiana basketball.

Perhaps most surprising of all was the composure that his less-experienced players battled with on an ever-growing stage.

“Of course, they’ve heard all of the talk about Sacred Heart, and they came out without a bit of hesitance, and they weren’t intimidated at all,” Norris said.

“I was proud of them.  The moment and the stage didn’t scare them at all.  And I think that’ll be good for them going forward.”

The same, and more, could be said of his senior leadership.  Jamichael Stallworth noticeably took the mantle of leadership with a number of remarkable feats throughout the season, including a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to win the area championship and a record-breaking 55-point scoring performance.

But Stallworth wasn’t the only senior who left an indelible mark on the season.

“Keinderus is a seasoned veteran, and it really hurt losing him,” Norris said. “He’s played for us for three years.”

“And Jamarcus Sims, to me, is a great story of a comeback kid, and I felt like he was a big leader on our team.

Norris remarked on Sims’ toughness, noting his return from a five-game absence due to a collapsed lung.

“He took at least a charge or two every game, and that to me is the ultimate basketball player—you sacrifice your body.  Jamichael hit the game-winning shot in the area championship, but people don’t realize the play of the game was the possession before that when Jamarcus took a charge that got us the ball back.”

Despite the tough end to the trilogy between Georgiana and Sacred Heart (the latter will move to Class 2A next season), Norris is confident that there is plenty to look forward to with regards to Georgiana basketball.