Playing their fourth games in five days, the Tiftarea Academy Panthers gave everything they had, but fell short in a pair of games against the Westfield Hornets Tuesday night.
The Panthers rallied in their game but could not survive a return one by their opponents, losing 51-44. The girls were downed, 71-46.
Tiftarea's boys had a 4-2 lead early in the 1st quarter. That would be the last one they saw for some time. The Hornets lead reached as high as 14 points over the next two quarters and they were up 12 going into the 4th.
That's when the Panthers went on a furious rally. A combination of pressure defense and clutch shooting began chipping away at the margin and with about 3 minutes left, Josh Hancock stole the ball. He passed to Ethan Mims under the goal and he was fouled on the shot. He sank both free throws and seconds later they had the ball again on another steal and this time Hancock hit a layup to cut the lead to 41-39. The Hornets missed a free throw and Sam Tucker made them pay with a 3-pointer to give them their first lead in three quarters.
They pushed their lead to 3 on a Trent Hobbs bucket at 1:40, but Westfield was not finished. Two trips down the floor resulted in two straight baskets to give them back the advantage, 45-44. That turned into a 10-0 run for the 51-44 final.
The contest was a physical one. They combined for 17 free throw attempts in the 2nd quarter alone. Westfield had taken a 15-6 lead after the opening quarter, but Tiftarea closed the gap to 6, 27-21 at halftime.
Mims had 18 points. He was the only Panther in double digits. Fitzpatrick had 10 for Westfield.
A minute into the girls' contest, Tiftarea and Westfield were tied at 2. That was soon change. The Lady Hornets were on fire, taking an 18-8 lead after 1 quarter and were up 19 points after the 2nd. Most of these came from Ledford, who personally outscored the Lady Panthers in the half, 23-21.
After a slow first half, things finally began cooking for Tiftarea as they finally began to get some shots to fall. The 4th would be their best quarter, as they kept pace with Westfield, each team scoring 16.
Caitlyn Albritton led the way for the Lady Panthers with 12 points. Neeli Fortson added 10. Ledford finished with 24.
Tiftarea split their games against Terrell Academy Monday night in Dawson. Behind 16 points from Tucker and 13 from Hobbs, they defeated the Eagles, 52-40. Terrell won the girls game, 58-43. Jarrett McWhorter had 13 and MacKenzie McWhorter had 12.
Both Tiftarea teams will be at Valwood Friday.