The zone that Perry faced against Upson-Lee gave the Panthers plenty of problems last week.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, things didn’t improve in the span between that game and Wednesday’s GHSA Region 2-4A boys matchup with tournament host Mary Persons.
Perry couldn’t find many open shots and missed many of the ones available and dug too deep a hole as Mary Persons took a 69-60 win to advance to Friday’s championship game.
The Panthers made it interesting, eventually, in a hectic fourth quarter that included a delay while officials deciphered a few things and got plenty of critiquing from Perry head coach Brett Hardy.
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Perry trailed 49-28 entering the fourth, and Hardy feverishly worked the sidelines, on his players and officials. Before long, the Panthers were within 58-52 at the 3:35 mark, thanks to 3s from Even Lasseter and Jacori Burks.
Mary Persons didn’t make any changes.
“They did that last week when we played them,” Mary Persons head coach Greg Nix said. “It wasn’t the zone. They reason why they was making shots (is) just they was making shots.”
The Bulldogs kept it interesting with a cool stretch at the free-throw line. A 3 from Keyiovione Whitlock pulled the Panthers with five with 2:50 left, but that’s where the comeback ended.
The Bulldogs still muddled things at the line, going 5-for-10 at one stretch, but the Panthers couldn’t take advantage in their 32-point quarter.
Cam Holden scored 30 for the Bulldogs, on 7-of-10 shooting overall and 14-of-16 from the line.
“He’s basketball smart,” Nix said. “That guy’s a winner. He will go to (any) length to win.”
Clay Moore added 16.
Jake Smith topped Perry with 15 while Whitlock added 11. Mary Persons held Damion Bagley to just four points.
“Our focus was to not let him get to the basket,” Nix said. “I wanted to keep a man in front of him, I wanted a helper right there next (to him), and I wanted our middle man to kind of be right there, kind of have a triangle, to where he just couldn’t drive.”
Perry (girls) 42, West Laurens 35
KK Smith scored seven of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter, and Perry maintained its lead to win its girls semifinal.
The Panthers (22-4) hit just enough free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on, finishing a rough 7-for-18 from the line.
Khashahmi Smith led West Laurens (12-15) with 10.
Perry will take on Spalding, a 65-40 winner Wednesday night over Upson-Lee, in the girls region championship.
Upson-Lee (boys) 68, Howard 47
After a quarter, Howard was down only two possessions.
But Upson-Lee opened the second quarter with some slam and a 3-pointer to take control and roll past the Huskies in the semifinal.
The Knights, now 26-0, will take on tournament host Mary Persons at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the tournament championship.
This was the closest of the three Huskies-Knights meetings, Upson-Lee winning 67-35 and 70-41 in the regular season.
The two middle quarters were the difference, the Knights outscoring the Huskies 39-24. Zyrice Scott had 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter and Travon Walker seven of his 11 in the third.
Tye Fagan led all scorers with 27 points for Upson-Lee, while Channing Thompson had 15 for Howard.
Spalding (girls) 65, Upson-Lee 40
Things went well for Upson-Lee in the first half, and the Knights trailed only by a bucket.
After that, Spalding took over, and a 30-point third quarter put the game in the Jaguars in control and in the tournament final.
Kiana Banks led Spalding with 27, 17 coming in the big third quarter.
Senior post Kyjha Kendall topped Upson-Lee with 20.