CHULA — The Tiftarea Academy Panthers might want to open new gymnasiums more often. Their debut Monday night against the Valwood Valiants netted them two varsity wins in blowout fashion. The Panthers won, 55-33, and the Lady Panthers took their contest by an even bigger margin, 50-13.
The two wins were not only similar, but the way they achieved them were as well. Both Valwood squads were held scoreless in the 1st quarter.
Tiftarea slowly built a lead in the girls' contest. Neeli Fortson scored the first basket in the new gym at 7:10, then scored the second one soon after. The lead was 7-0 after the 1st quarter and kept increasing, courtesy of a full court press employed by Mike Patrick's squad.
While the lead added up, the Lady Valiants continued to struggle. They were held scoreless until 2 minutes before halftime and were down 28-2 at the half. It was 44-7 after 3 quarters.
Fortson personally outscored Valwood, putting up 15 points. A balanced offense saw Macy Strength and Ali Rippy each score 6. Ashley Manwell had 6 for Valwood.
The Valiants scored a bit quicker in the second game, but were shut down until a free throw found the nets with just over a minute gone in the 2nd quarter. Tiftarea's offense kept them off-balance in the early going with quick strikes to complement their relentless defense.
First scoring honors went to Trent Hobbs with a bucket at 7:39. A minute later, the first 3-pointer was drained by Rob Flick. They were up 14-0 after the 1st and that would be all the cushion they needed.
Once Valwood finally got on the scoreboard, they played Tiftarea pretty evenly the rest of the contest, though they only outscored them in a single quarter, the 3rd. Dan Henderson's charges benefited from a deep bench, enabling constant substitutions to keep players fresh.