PEMBROKE -- When Portal jumped out a 3-0 lead 30 seconds into the game thanks to Shaneisha Coleman’s and-one play Coach Mario Mincey could see his worst dream coming true.
The Bryan County girls’ basketball coach’s nightmare lasted about a minute.
Before Mincey could wake up and blink his eyes the Redskins had a 7-3 lead and went on to post an easy 42-11 Region 3A Public win over the Panthers Friday night.
“This was a perfect trap game,” said Mincey whose team was coming off a 67-46 win over New Hampstead.
The Redskins (14-3, 5-2) solidified their hold on third-place in the region with a 52-32 win at McIntosh County Academy on Saturday night and can draw closer to set up an important rematch with region leader Screven County (10-2, 6-0).
The two teams met Tuesday night at Bryan County. The Gamecocks prevailed, 42-34, earlier in the season.
Mincey is legendary for his attention to detail and not looking past any team regardless of its record.
Playing for the first time in a week Bryan County made early work of the Panthers who last beat the Redskins in the second game of the 2015 season.
When Kenzie Stucker broke the scoring ice for the Redskins it was the start of a 24-0 run. Portal did not get another point until Raashonda Khalil made a pair of free throws with 3:18 to play in the first half.
It was 27-9 at the half and from that point on it was a mere formality to play out the rest of the game. The Bryan County defense was stifling as it played havoc with the Panthers’ offense all night.
Niyah Shuman, the latest in a long line of Redskins three-point shooters, hit five from long range to lead Bryan County with 15 points, Kenzie Stucker added nine and Anderia Jackson had eight as she made three of her four attempts from the field and both free throws.
Freshman Ashanti Brown, who continues to show improvement from one game to the next, added six points and had 11 rebounds. Stucker also had seven rebounds as Bryan County controlled the boards on both ends of the floor.
Shuman hit three of her three-pointers in the first quarter while Stucker and Jackson had four each. None of the starters played past the midway point of the third quarter. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins are currently in third-place in the Region 3A Public race and Mincey will be satisfied if his team can maintain that standing at worst.
“I don’t look at where we are,” Mincey said. “We play it one game at a time and at the end of the thing I’m just looking to be in the top four.”
The top four region finishers make the GHSA state playoffs something the Redskins failed to do last year for the first time since 2016.
Bryan County basketball coach Brent Anderson left the sentence unfinished but there was no missing what he meant.
“You can’t be happy with a loss but…,” Anderson said following his team’s 59-57 nail-biter of a loss to Portal last Friday night in a Region 3A Public matchup.
“I think we found we can play in a game like this,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day this loss doesn’t hurt us.”
The Panthers (7-3, 4-1) entered the game ranked No. 9 in the state by the AJC—they have been ranked as high as No. 2—and overcame a 12-point halftime deficit in a game not decided until 6-foot-5 Amir Jackson put back a missed shot with five seconds to play.
Bryan County (11-5, 5-2) got a bounce back win when it rallied to beat McIntosh County Academy, 52-47, Saturday night in another game not decided until the closing seconds.
The weekend split left the Redskins in second place in the region, one back of Portal in the loss column. They hosted Screven County Tuesday night needing a win to assure their first winning season in seven years. The Gamecocks (5-6, 3-3) won at Screven, 64-54, earlier.
“McIntosh has a ton of size, and it gave us a tough time,” Anderson said. “We trailed the entire game and took the lead with 20 seconds to go.”
Bryan County was at a size differential against the Buccaneers who have seven players on their roster who are 6-2 or taller. Tanner Ennis and Jordan Flannel are BC’s tallest starters at 6-0.
That size difference was significant against the Panthers and Jackson who finished with 20 points, several of them coming off offensive rebounds.
On the game winning shot Jackson used his five-inch height advantage to simply go up and over Ennis, who had perfect defensive position, for the rebound and put back.
“I thought Tanner played well,” Anderson said. “On that shot he didn’t have a chance.”
The Redskins rushed the ball up floor with Elijah Mincey getting bumped out of bounds on a no call with three seconds left. Mincey’s three-point attempt from near mid-court clanged off the rim.
“We were going for the win,” Anderson said. “It was a near impossible shot.”
Mincey led the Redskins in scoring with 15 points. Jamal Campbell scored 11 with Devontae Bowers and Jordan Flannel getting 10 each. Ennis had six.
Portal jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Ennis hit a bank shot from the foul line. The Panthers then answered only to have Bryan County close the quarter on a 10-0 run, the last five by Sean Kelly Hill.
That momentum carried over into the second quarter as Bryan County could do little wrong in outscoring the Panthers 22-13 for a 34-22 halftime bulge. Campbell, Mincey and Flannel all had six points each.
“A 12-point lead is not safe against them,” Anderson said and unfortunately Portal showed why.
The Panthers, a pre-season favorite to win the region, used its best shooting quarter of the game to bolt into a 44-38 lead before Bowers and Mincey scored in the last 10 seconds.
Portal got the lead for the first time since the first quarter when it went up 45-44 on a free throw by Jackson and was up 53-48 only to have the Redskins rally for a 55-53 lead on Mincey’s bucket with 1:22 to play.
It was tied at 54 and 57 before Jackson got his put back to win it. Bryan County shot 51.9 percent from the floor (27-52) but the Panthers, thanks to their work on the offensive boards, got off 10 more shots (23-62).