Trailing by one with 36 seconds to play, the Panthers
(11-14, 2-8 Region 2B-AAAA) had to take two timeouts and ultimately could not get a final shot off in a 53-52 loss to Statesboro.
“We just came up short,” said Panthers forward Chris Hall. “We were under pressure and we didn’t get it.”
It was the seventh game the Panthers have lost by five or less and have lost two of its past three games by a free throw.
The game was crucial for Statesboro (13-12, 7-3), who entered tied for second with Evans in the region. Evans will face South Effingham on Friday night and a win would put tiebreakers into effect to determine the region’s second seed.
The Panthers were aggressive in the first half and got to the free-throw line frequently, hitting 13 of 17 attempts while building a 31-25 halftime lead.
Hall, who led all scorers with 18 points, was especially effective, getting into passing lanes and turning steals into layups.
The second half was a different story as the Blue Devils, who outscored the Panthers 18-11 in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 43-42 lead.
“We attacked well in the first half, in the third I wasn’t sure it was the same team I was watching,” Panthers coach John Kucela said.
The Panthers took a 52-51 lead on a Chris Watson layup with 1:06 to go. Johnathan Taylor corralled an offensive rebound on the Blue Devils ensuing possession, was fouled and calmly sank both free throws with 36 seconds remaining.
The Lady Panthers had a tall task at hand, facing the top team in the region, with Statesboro entering with a 12-game winning streak.
The Lady Blue Devils
(24-1, 10-0) took control early with their size and speed, cruising to the 55-31 win.
“At the beginning of the season if you said we could win 10 games, I would have laughed,” said Lady Panthers head coach Jody Hilley, referring to his team’s inexperience. “It’s a tribute to our kids, they’ve worked hard. Tonight we were out-
Alisia Jenkins led the Lady Blue Devils with 14 points.
Rosalyan Talley led the Lady Panthers (9-14, 3-7) with a game-high 15 points.
The Lady Panthers heads into the Region 2-AAAA Tournament next Tuesday at Richmond Hill, most likely as the five-seed.