Mitchell Eagle

Mitchell Eagle brings the ball up the floor for the Panthers against Beech. Portland upset the Bucs, 59-57, Friday night in District 9-AAA play.

Portland coach Darryl Travis was extremely pleased with his team after the Panthers 59-57 win over host Beech in a key district win Friday night.

The Purple, after a disappointing loss to Hendersonville three nights earlier, battled the entire night against the second-place team in the district.

“We grinded this one out,” Travis said in the locker room afterward. “I’m proud of the kids. It was team effort and we played well.”

Senior Dairius Bell keyed the effort by scoring 20 second half points, including 15 in the final eight minutes.

“Dairius wanted the basketball, and I’ve been begging for that all season,” Travis pointed out. “When he got the basketball, he did something with it.”

Bell scored on five straight possessions in the fourth period as Portland overcame a six-point deficit heading in the fourth.

The Panthers had 35 points through three quarters of action, but scored 24 in the fourth.

“I thought our defense and rebounding kept us in the game tonight,” Travis remarked. “We competed on the boards and made Beech earn all of their rebounds. It was a team effort tonight. The bench played a big role. Vhan McGuire came in and gave us six or seven quality minutes, Tez (Bradley) and D.K. (Dawson Kennedy) played well. Mitchell Eagle’s 3-pointer in the fourth was big. This was a heck of a game for us. We needed it for momentum.”

Bell put the Purple on top to open the game, added two more buckets and Duncan Smallwood’s two foul shots tied the score at 8-8. The Bucs would take the lead as Drew Paige scored on a charity toss and a last second bucket for a 13-9 margin.

Four straight points that opened the second period gave Beech their biggest spread at 17-9, but Portland fought back as Eagle punched in two free throws, Caeson Utley swished a basket, McGuire recorded an offensive putback and Eagle sank one of two at the foul line to close the gap by four, 20-16. Beech would wrap up the half with a couple of late baskets and led 27-21 at the break.

Eagle heated up in the third quarter with eight points as the Purple stayed close. Eagle’s two foul shots left the Panthers behind 38-33 before Luke Fleming threw in a 3-point bucket and an eight point difference. Bell closed out the third with an off the glass jumper and PHS faced a 41-35 deficit heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Portland came out in the fourth with Dequan Bradley drilling a jumper and Bell scoring on five straight trips downcourt. Eagle’s 3-point bucket gave the Panthers a 50-48 advantage at the 2:47 mark. Beech would knot the score at 50-all, but Bell drained another inside shot and fired in two free throws and a 54-50 edge with 1:26 left. Kaleb Powell connected for two at the charity stripe for the Bucs. Dequan Bradley drained two attempts at the charity stripe and another Beech basket left the hosts trailing 56-54.

Beech would miss on back to back possessions as Bell snared the rebound both times. Bell and Fleming each scored on a single toss from the foul line before Duncan Smallwood nailed one of two and a 58-55 lead with sixteen seconds remaining. Brandon Brinkley tallied on a putback before Smallwood closed out the game with a foul shot for the final margin of victory.

Bell finished with a game high 24 points with Eagle following with 16. Dequan Bradley netted seven, Smallwood had five. Utley contributed three and McGuire and Tez Bradley each collected two points. Powell paced Beech with 23 and Fleming contributed 19.

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