Ana Holman

Ana Holman drives towards the basket Friday (Dec. 17) in Jackson County's narrow loss to region foe Walnut Grove.

The Jackson County girls' basketball team did everything it took to win Friday (Dec. 17) against region rival Walnut Grove except score points.

The Panthers lost to the Warriors 43-39 despite forcing turnovers and grabbing a plethora of offensive boards in the second half. However, Jackson County started giving up offensive boardson the other end in the fourth quarter.

"I thought we did a better job in the second half of playing hard," said head coach Christy Thomas. "Both halves, we didn't do a good job of finishing under the basket, we didn't do a great job of boxing out to get rebounds. I think that's what bit us in the end."

Jackson County (1-8, 1-2 Region 8-AAAAA) took an early 8-7 lead, but couldn't maintain. Walnut Grove (6-4, 2-1 Region 8-AAAAA) ended the first quarter on a 9-0 run to lead 16-8. The Warriors' lad hovered around 7-to-8 points until a late rally by the Panthers cut the score to 25-20 at halftime.

A layup by Miracle Lariando to start the second half made it a one-score game at 25-22. She finished the game with 12 points. However, the shot didn't help the teams' scoring woes and soon Jackson County trailed 30-22. The lead never stretched beyond eight points, but the Panthers' were unable to cut below two points either.

Walnut Grove scored its last points of the game with 2:33 left when Yvette Johnson-McLeod drained a three-pointer in front of her bench. The shot extended the Warriors' lead to 42-36. Despite pitching a shutout for the last 153 seconds, Jackson County couldn't score the points necessary to win the game. A three-pointer by Harris was all the Panthers could muster. Harris finished with 15 points.

Despite the loss, Thomas remains optimistic about Jackson County's potential. The Panthers lost their first eight games of the season, but those loses came against quality teams such as Winder Barrow (8-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAAA), East Hall (6-4, 1-2 Region 8-AAAA), Mountain View (7-5, 0-1 Region 8-AAAAAAA) and Greenbrier (8-2, 3-0 Region 8-AAAAA).

The Panthers also played many of those games without Thomas on the sideline when she was on maternity leave.

With a region victory over Eastside, and a near upset of Walnut Grove, Thomas believes the tough schedule has her team prepared for success after Christmas break.

"We played some really good basketball teams," she said. "I think it got them prepared. They were at a disadvantage with me not being around to start out this season. They're a whole different basketball team right now than they were when they first started.

"I don't think that has everything to do with me, but I think it has a lot to do with their head coach coming back and what I demand from them on a regular basis. We're going to get there, we're coming around. These kids are playing hard."

Before the Panthers can open presents, they have two more games this week. On Monday (Dec. 20), they start the Battle in Buckhead tournament against Mt. Bethel Christian (0-5, 0-3 Region 6-A Private). On Tuesday (Dec. 21), the Panthers play the winner or loser of the South Cobb  vs. Douglass game. The tournament is at the Galloway School.


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