PORTLAND The Portland High girls basketball team had a chance to do something no Lady Panther squad had done in 10 years on Thursday evening … clinch a spot in the region tournament.
However, fifth-seeded Lebanon spoiled the party, handing the host Lady Panthers a 58-54 loss in Thursday evening’s District 9-AAA Tournament quarterfinal.
It also spoiled a career scoring effort from Portland senior guard Alyssa Chatmon, who racked up 35 points.
“We were having to come back the whole time, and it made us uncomfortable,” Portland head coach Miranda Cravens said. “Offensively, the only person who found any rhythm was Alyssa. We just struggled scoring as a team.”
Chatmon had 21 points in the first half, helping keep the fourth-seeded Lady Panthers in the game as Lebanon led 33-27 at halftime.
“In the past, when we’ve won against (Lebanon), we’ve had contributions from three or four (players) in double digits,” Cravens said. “I think that was the difference tonight. We just couldn’t get any floor balance and consistent scoring.”
Chatmon and junior forward Mackenzie Trouten combined to pull Portland closer to begin the third quarter, leading to a see-saw battle for much of the second half. After Chatmon hit a 3-pointer to pull Portland within a point (39-38) with 3:15 left in the third quarter, neither team led by more than five points for the remainder of the contest.
The Lady Panthers (15-12) held a five-point advantage when sophomore point guard Rachel Jennings connected on two free throws with 5:59 left in regulation.
Lebanon junior Caleah Shannon gave the Devilettes (14-16) the lead for the final time with 1:39 remaining, and Portland was unable to respond.
Senior guard Cristina Herrera fouled out with 22.7 seconds left, shortly after making two free throws to cut Lebanon’s lead to 52-50. Without Herrera, the Lady Panthers were faced with attempting a comeback with one of their best outside shooters on the bench.
“Losing her – especially when you’re behind, because you want to have your shooters in – that definitely made it more difficult for us,” Cravens.
Senior Kendra Brown and sophomore Maleigha Oldham scored 17 points each for Lebanon.
Portland defeated Lebanon in both regular-season meetings this year, a 44-31 victory at Lebanon on Jan. 19 and a 52-45 triumph at home on Feb. 13.
The Lady Panthers have lost in the district quarterfinals for 10 consecutive seasons, the last seven years in Class AAA. They last advanced to the regional tournament during the 2005-06 season – under the direction of former head coach Missy Humphrey – thanks to a 45-35 win over Greenbrier in its District 8-AA Tournament quarterfinal.
Portland loses four seniors – Chatmon, Herrera, Erica Keen and McKenzie Fletcher.
“(We were) not quite good enough tonight, but I’m just really proud of the season the girls have had,” Cravens said. “Emotionally, they’ve grown so much. It’s changed the attitude here with Portland girls basketball, and it’s something that looks to have a bright future. I told the girls that this game doesn’t define our season. It doesn’t define who you are as a player. Our season’s been one to be proud of.”
The Devilettes advanced to face top-seeded Wilson Central in Saturday’s semifinal round.
Reach Chris Brooks at email@example.com or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.
LEBANON (58) – Kendra Brown 17, Maleigha Oldham 17, Zyrina Neuble 7, Bailey Sells 6, Keianna Britton 3, Jordyne Denney 3, Caleah Shannon 3, Ireland Elie 2.
PORTLAND (54) – Alyssa Chatmon 35, MacKenzie Trouten 10, Cristina Herrera 5, Erica Keen 4.
Half: 33-27, Lebanon. Three-point goals: Lebanon 8 (Oldham 4, Brown 2, Neuble 2), Portland 5 (Chatmon 4, Herrera 1). Records: Lebanon 14-16, Portland 15-13.