After just four games, the Lakeside High School Panthers are halfway to their win total from a year ago.
Taking control early Friday night, the Panthers led the Westside Patriots by 16 points at halftime. They kept the Patriots at bay in the second half, winning 54-41, improving to 4-0.
Panthers head basketball coach Jody Hilley took over the program a week before the season opened a year ago and the Panthers went on to finish 8-17.
“A year’s time has made a huge difference for us cause obviously they were trying to get to know me and I was trying to get to know them,” said Hilley of his players. “I think this year we’re so much more athletic than we’ve been in the past, which obviously plays a huge role in what we try to do.”
Hilley said senior Sam Powell played power forward last year out of necessity, but with added depth, Powell has been able to return to his natural small forward spot.
Grabbing the opening tip, the Panthers surveyed the Patriots defense for just over a minute before Powell took the ball from the top of the key, drove left down the lane and made an up-and-under layup for the game’s first points. He showed his range with two minutes left in the quarter, sinking a 3-pointer that capped a 9-0 run as the Panthers went up 13-3.
For the game, Powell finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Panthers forced the Patriots (0-1) to turn the ball over and got out on the break late in the second quarter. Led by speedy point guard BJ Raymond, the Panthers finished the half on a 10-0 run, leading 29-13.
“Our transition game is much improved because of our athleticism,” said Hilley.
Luke Harmon had 12 points, Raymond used his speed to get to the rim and finished with 12 points while dishing five assists, Rashad Roundtree had eight points in the paint and Jake Gilbert blocked five shots.
The Patriots, who trailed by double digits the entire second half, were led by Quinton Phillip’s 12 points.
Hilley considered the game a big step for his team.
“This game in itself was just a huge confidence booster and I think it kind of made a statement,” Hilley said. “The first three games we didn’t see the type of athleticism, the type of basketball players we did tonight. We withstood and stood toe-to-toe with those guys. “I think it opened our kids’ eyes that we can play with anybody.”
After starting their year 2-0, the Lady Panthers dropped their third consecutive contest, losing 63-26 to the Lady Patriots.
Not much went right for the Lady Panthers who saw the Lady Patriots (3-0) jump out to an 11-0 lead. By halftime, the Lady Patriots’ lead swelled to 33-5.
Jaylan Jones and Amber Talley led the Lady Panthers with six points.
For the Lady Patriots, Marion Ware had a game-high 19 points. Jahmia Bradley had 15, Tyesha Ravenell chipped in with 13 and Olivia Johnson added 10.
While waiting for Thursday’s semifinals to begin, the eight teams in the NCAA Division II men’s and women’s soccer national championships took time out Wednesday to visit Columbia County schools and spent time with students.
The Carson-Newman University Eagles men’s team spent an hour with students and staff at Martinez Elementary School in the morning.
“I think it’s important for these guys to be involved and give back to the commmunity,” said Eagles’ head coach Richard Moodie. “We’ve got practice today and a banquet tonight, but I think the timing’s perfect for us to do it.”
Players read to students, sang and danced with them and fielded a myriad of questions in the process.
Senior midfielder Bryce Berry was smiling answering questions in Todd Shafer’s fifth-grade class and enjoyed the overall experience.
“We get so much as athletes, so it’s nice to give back as much as you can,” said Berry. “Just getting to take an hour out of our day to come down here has been awesome.”
Principal Wade White was glad his school was able to be involved in the community outreach.
“It was great to partner with the NCAA and Carson-Newman, those guys are a class act,” White said. “I just like my kids being around postive role models and these are role models my kids can look up to. We talk about study habits, we talk about discipline and responsibility and these guys are the epitome of that.”