GLADEVILLE — Four Portland High School girls basketball players reached double figures in the Lady Panthers’ 55-47 win at Wilson Central last Tuesday evening.
Portland swept the Lady Wildcats in the season series after winning 57-52 on Jan. 5.
“This is a difficult and tough district, and I’m proud of this group,” Portland head coach Scott Steinbrecher said. “We’ve had to battle all year, and we are used to battling to get everything it takes to win.”
Senior Lillie Whitehead led the way with 21 points, with classmate Lexie Williams contributing 11. Freshmen Cheyenne Gregory and Katie McCloud each netted 10 points, and Rayleigh Hester added three.
“We need both Lillie and Lexie on to have a chance, and if one is off, we struggle,” Steinbrecher said. “Our seniors put the team on their back and said, ‘This is how you do it.’ I thought Wilson Central outplayed us the first 10 or 12 minutes. But after that, I don’t think I’ve seen us play as hard as we did tonight. I tell the girls (that) if they keep working, good things will happen.”
Gregory scored seven points in the fourth quarter, including six over the final two minutes to help seal the win for the Lady Panthers.
“Cheyenne is getting better,” Steinbrecher said. “She was at the free-throw line late in the game, and I wasn’t worried. She provides a lot of spark and energy.”
It was Whitehead, however, who provided an early spark as Portland led 12-10 in the first quarter.
Whitehead scored 10 of her game-high points over the opening eight minutes, including hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Both teams went cold in the second quarter, with just two field goals scored by each squad. Sydney Dalton nailed a 3- pointer, while Breanna Fayne added a basket and Kristen Smith hit a single foul shot for the Lady Wildcats.
Portland countered with a Gregory shot from long range and a Williams short jumper as the Lady Panthers maintained a 17-16 lead at the halftime break.
Hester and McCloud pushed the Lady Panthers out to a seven-point advantage, 23-16, with back-to-back 3-pointers.
Wilson Central got another three-point goal from Dalton and a offensive board from Lillian Crutchfield to trim the deficit by two, 23-21.
However, Portland extended its margin to seven, 29-22, as Whitehead fired in three free throws and added a three-point bucket as the Lady Wildcats netted a single charity toss.
Smith connected for the hosts before Williams’ unleashed a 3-pointer to create an eight-point bulge, 32-24.
Wilson Central scored seven of the game’s next nine points to cut the difference to three, 34-31, heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Panthers stretched their advantage to seven, 45-38, on a Whitehead steal and basket.
Wilson Central went to the free-throw four times and made three attempts to trail 45-41 before McCloud sank two from the charity stripe.
Then, Dalton recorded her third 3-pointer of the evening to pull the Lady Wildcats to within three, 47-44.
Portland responded by producing eight consecuctive points to put the game out of reach, with Gregory scoring six and Whitehead dropping in two foul shots.
Dalton finished with 18 points for the Lady Wildcats.
Portland finished 15 of 18 at the charity stripe, including 12 of 14 over the final eight minutes of action.