PORTLAND- The Panthers came out of the gates locked in on Friday night and cruised to a 57-39 win over district 9AAA foe Wilson Central.
“I thought our offense was a little uneasy tonight, but our defense was really solid tonight and we rebounded well,” Panther coach Daryl Travis said following the win. “And I think that triggered a lot of stuff for us tonight. I thought the key tonight was our defense and rebounding.”
After a Mitchel Eagle basket to get things going for Portland (8-9, 2-4), senior Austin Hicks scored 6 straight points to give the Panthers an early 8-1 lead. Hicks would score 9 points in the first quarter to give the Panthers a 15-5 lead at the end of the opening frame.
Portland would continue to control things in the second quarter as their defense held the Wildcats scoreless for nearly six minutes as the Panthers mounted a commanding 31-11 lead going into the half.
The Panthers would push their lead to as many as 31 points in the second half behind 9 second half points from Darius Bell. Wilson Central (8-10, 2-4) more than doubled their points in the final quarter of play, but Portland’s lead would be too much as they held on to the 57-39 win.
Travis has started to see his team buy-in defensively recently and that led to the best defensive effort from his side he’s seen all season.
“We’ve had quarters, but we’ve never had a whole game like we did tonight (defensively),” Travis said. “I was thoroughly, thoroughly impressed with our defense.”
Bell led the Panthers with 15 points. The junior also pulled in 7 rebounds. In all, Portland saw four players reach double-figures.
“We had four guys score in double-figures tonight and for us that’s huge,” Travis said.
The win gives Portland three straight victories with two of those coming in district play following Tuesday night’s 63-59 win at Beech.
The Panthers wrap up the first half of their district schedule on Tuesday night when they host Lebanon before their rematch at home with Gallatin on Friday night.
As they look to continue this run, Travis wants to keep his team focused on what they’re doing instead of what their opponents are doing.
“We just keep talking about what we need to do,” Travis said. “We talked about we needed to do versus not much about what they were doing. We talk about them, but we talk about us and how we prepare for them.”
Wilson Central (39): Seth Beck 11, Daniel Jackson 7, Tyler Hayes 7, Calib Lawerance 6, Conner Miller 4, Adhe Kerr 4
Portland (57): Darius Bell 15, Austin Hicks 12, Mitchell Eagle 11, Hunter Hicks 10, Dequan Bradley 4, Jakeb Hester 3, Connor Simmons 2