The Portland West boys gave visiting Rucker Stewart all they wanted before falling to the Rams 46-38 last Monday evening.
The two teams were tied at after the first quarter and the Rams were on top 23-18 at intermission. The Panthers trailed by four heading into the finals six minutes but the visitors pulled away by outscoring the Purple 15-11 for the eight-point margin of victory.
“Intensity wise, this was our best game,” Coach Bill Runyon said afterwards. “We broke their press well and we stayed positive and kept our heads up.”
Cade Box led all scorers with 20 including 11 in the opening half. Nakeitha Jackson followed with nine, Caeson Utley had four, Cannan Russell contributed three and Josh Holden finished with two.
“It was Cade’s best game of the season,” Runyon noted.
Portland West did struggle in the paint and made 12 of 32 shots from four feet or less.
“We struggle with finishing shots,” Runyon explained. “I know the boys were frustrated with that. We got the shots but couldn’t get a basket.”
The Panthers led 6-2 in the early minutes as Box scored four and Jackson added a basket. The Rams came back to go up 9-6 but a Box 3-point shot tied the score at 9-9 at the buzzer.
Utley tied the game at 11-11 in the second period but the Purple would be no closer. Rucker Stewart built a 17-11 advantage before a Jackson three-point play and a Box 3-pointer closed the gap by 2, 19-17.
Jackson Richardson fired in a pair of back-to-back shot before Box wrapped up the first half scoring on a foul shot as the Purple trailed 23-18.
Portland West stayed close in the third quarter and trailed 31-27 heading into the final six minutes of play.
The Rams went up by seven in the first two minutes of the final period but Box fired in a 3-point shot and added two foul shots as part of a 7-2 run and Portland West trailed 38-36. The Rams put the game away with eight straight points to escape with the win.
Richardson and Isiah Ellis paced Rucker Stewart with 12 points.