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Blackman basketball splits with Stone Memorial

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Blackman split with Stone Memorial in the Outback Classic at home last Friday, with the girls falling 42-40 and the boys winning 65-36.

In the girls game, the Lady Panthers edged out the host Lady Blaze in a matchup that stayed close from start to finish. Unfortunately for Blackman, it fell a step behind early and spent the game that one step behind, although they did claim the lead for a brief time in the third period and never were behind more than five points.

"Seeing that two- three zone kind of slows us down a bit," said Blackman coach Jessica Jackson. "Nia Vanzant is out right now, and she's been our leading scorer, and her on the bench hurts our scoring a little. And it seems like every time we would get a push we would make an untimely turnover or foul. We fouled too much and they shot free throws well."

The Lady Blaze struggled at the foul line.

"We went 9 for 17 from the line ourselves," said Jackson. "That's points right there that you can't give up, points we can't not get. You need every point you can especially against that zone."

Blackman was up 4-3 early in the first until the Lady Panthers put together a 10-2 run that included back to back 3-pointers by Lexi Hinch.

The bleeding stopped when Blackman's Jaleah Goff came off the bench and hit consecutive buckets to bring her team within three, 13-10, at the end of one.

Goff continued to shoulder her team as they fought back in the second and third periods, as she netted 14 of her teams 21 points in that time, including eight straight in the third at the time when Blackman was actually toggling the lead with Stone Memorial for three minutes.

"Goff has been out for two weeks with medical issues," said Jackson. "Yesterday was her first day to practice which is why she didn't start today, but I thought she brought some real energy. She had 20 points and this may have been her best game of the year. Hopefully that continues because I'd say she earned her starting job back."

Shutting down the Lady Panther 3-point attack was key for Blackman to hang in the game as they did, holding Stone Memorial to just 18 percent from beyond the arc.

"We did a good job on defense," said Jackson. "They are a 3-point shooting team and we held them to only four threes. We just couldn't put the ball in the hole enough ourselves."

Blackman was set to carry the lead into the fourth but at the buzzer Stone Memorial's Alex Eldridge hit a jumper and was fouled. She made her free throw to convert the three point play and reclaim the lead 32-31.

Blackman stayed within one to two points for the entire fourth quarter, but saw the Lady Panthers spending the final two minutes at the foul line and retaining their lead for a 42-40 victory.

Emma Capps and Eldridge led Stone Memorial with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Goff led all scorers with 20 points for Blackman.

BOYS

Blackman 65

Stone Memorial 36

Blackman led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter, which in no way was a sign of things to come as the Blaze went on to route Stone Memorial.

"This time of year it can be tough to come out and play with energy after exams and a week off," said Blackman coach Barry Wortman. "I like the fact that we had great energy and great juice coming out and tried to play the game the right way. I really like 18 assists on 24 baskets, which shows sharing the ball and is pleasing."

Blackman went into early foul trouble, reaching seven team fouls midway through the first period, which played a factor in the Panthers keeping the game close for a quarter.

"We have to learn to play with our hands away," said Wortman. "In Oak Ridge we got in trouble early. That a challenge for this group and we have to improve on that. But I thought our guys were just trying to play and I was pleased with them moving their feet and making plays, and at the end of the day we made more free throws than they attempted."

After the tight first quarter the Blaze turned up the heat and really blew things wide open, outscoring the Panthers 44-16 over the next two quarters. As the game got further out of reach and the Blazed players began having more fun it became a high-flying dunk fest for such players as Bryce Williams and James Polite, much to the delight of the Blackman fans.

Going into the final quarter the Blaze held a 29 point lead, and would have that same lead as time expired, winning 65-36.

Blackman was led by Brandon Thomas with 12 points and Trent Gibson and Donovan Sims with 10 apiece. It should be noted that 10 different Blackman players scored on the evening.

Stone Memorial's Tristan Norman led all scorers with 24 points.

"These (Christmas break) tournaments are a really big time for high school teams to grow and get better," said Wortman. "We really value these three weeks that we have. Practice is important and trying to get practice into these games.

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Blackman basketball, Matthew Sawyer
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