It may not have gained a high amount of style points, but Perry’s play was good enough Monday to snap a three-game losing streak and earn a berth in the GHSA Class 4A tournament with a 67-53 win over West Laurens in the Region 2-4A tournament at Mary Persons.
The Panthers (19-7) had four players score in double figures and led by double digits early before surviving some offensive spurts by the Raiders (6-20) to advance. A 9-0 run to begin the second half gave Perry a 39-22 lead, and its advantage would not be any smaller than ten points the rest of the game.
Five who mattered
Keyiovione Whitlock: Whitlock led the Panthers with 11 points, picking up six of those points in the second half to help Perry put the game away.
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Jabari Rucker: His 10-point effort prevented West Laurens from focusing its defense on one single player.
Jecory Burks: His steady 10-point effort helped the Panthers continue their strong presence on the offensive end.
Jhimarre Brown: Brown gave the Panthers four players in double figures with 10 points.
Elijah Howard: Howard led West Laurens with 14 points.
Coming in spurts: At times, Perry’s play was plenty for head coach Brett Hardy to be pleased with, as the Panthers’ defensive pressure early on built a 15-point lead. At the same time, offensive doldrums set in for Perry, with the Panthers going approximately four minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter. A strong four-quarter with no letting up effort will be something that Perry will need Wednesday against Mary Persons.
Fighting hard: It has hardly been the season West Laurens would have liked as a far as results are concerned, but that was not reflected with the Raiders’ grit Monday. They fought back from the 15-point deficit early and also clawed back to trail by 13 points late before Perry sealed the win. That’s something that a fairly young West Laurens team can build on going into next year.
Also on Monday
The West Laurens girls advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals with a 46-32 win over Mary Persons. The Raiders broke an early tie with a big 14-3 second quarter and cruised to the win from there, keeping the Bulldogs at bay. Makayla Murry’s 15 points led West Laurens with Mary Persons being led by the nine-point efforts of Olympia High and Ateria McDowell.
They said it
Hardy on the win and getting into the state playoffs: “It takes a little bit off our shoulders. Not taking anything away from West Laurens, but we certainly didn’t play our best basketball. We were a little bit lethargic and complacent, and you can’t do that against Mary Persons on Wednesday.”
Hardy on ending the first half and starting the third quarter strong: “I thought we closed out the half well after we lost the 15-point lead, we made a good couple of buckets at the end of the half and that gave us some good momentum going in.”
West Laurens head coach Ed Ford on the Raiders battling throughout the game: “I thought we made a really nice come back there in the early part of the second quarter and fought back, but we came to find out that we had 19 turnovers in the first half. That’s hard to overcome and were 6-of-17 from the foul line in the first half. It’s been our achilles heel all year long.”
Ford on a young team looking toward next year: “These kids just have to learn how to win, what it takes to win. They haven’t really won since they’ve been in school, plus, I’m the third coach they have had in three years, so obviously that makes a difference. Hopefully next year, the things that we have been working on will come to fruition.”
The tournament continues Wednesday at Mary Persons with Perry taking on the Bulldogs at 5:30 p.m. and either Spalding or Howard playing top-seeded Upson Lee at 8:30 p.m. On the girls side, Perry plays West Laurens at 4 p.m. and either Howard or Upson-Lee will take on Spalding at 7 p.m.