CHULA -- The Tiftarea Academy Panthers and Lady Panthers basketball teams got the new year off to a good start Tuesday night in Damascus with a sweep over the Warrior teams from Southwest Georgia Academy.

"Right now I'm satisfied with the way we're playing," said Panthers head coach Rick Ellis of his 6-3 squad following the 73-56 win over the Warriors.

The Panthers are 3-2 in region play and according to Ellis, those two losses were games "that we should have won."

"We had a two-point lead over Randolph Southern and we just gave out," he said, adding that the Southern game was the sixth in eight days earlier this season.

Against the Warriors Tuesday, it was the host team that gave out as Southwest Georgia held an 11-point advantage midway through the second period. But by the half, the conditioning was beginning to pay off as Tiftarea cut the deficit to four points.

Then in the third the Panthers poured it on, out-scoring Southwest Georgia 18-2 to take a commanding lead.

"We were just in better shape and they kind of got winded," Ellis said.

The Panthers have been paced this season by Jonathan House, who leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game. Michael McCard is scoring 12 and shooting guard Tanner Ivie is right behind him with 11.

The Panthers coach hopes the second half of the season will be even better than the first as Whit Coarsey and Garrett Bowen have rejoined the team after recovering from slight injuries. In Bowen's first outing Tuesday, the 6-3 post player scored 12 points and pulled down five rebounds.

The Lady Panthers are also proving to be a tenacious force as they recorded their seventh win of the season. Pacing the Tiftarea girls in the six-point win was Lindsey Shiver with 20 points. Macie Hood added ten but made her presence felt defensively as she held Southwest Georgia's top player in check all night.

"Macie doesn't give up, she never gives in," said Lady Panthers head coach Kim Czerepinski. Another standout in the early going has been LizAnn Parrish who pulled down seven rebounds against the Lady Warriors.

"LizAnn is the best inside defensive player that we have," said Czerepinski.

Parrish is an extra weapon in an arsenal that includes 6-1 Lindsay Welker and 5-10 Andrea Kelley.

Despite the size and strength inside, Czerepinski is still focusing on improvement in the area of rebounds.

"We need to keep getting better and attacking the boards both offensively and defensively," said Czerepinski.

Tiftarea is in action again Friday night as they host Brookwood Academy. The Lady Panthers tip things off at 6:30 with the boys to immediately follow.

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