Maurice Dixon

@WriturRece |

ACWORTH (GA) – The Therrell Panthers were one win away from playing in the Lake City Classic championship game but Kell had just enough poise down the stretch to punch its ticket.

Robbie Armbrester and Roman Son both scored 18 points but the Panthers’ comeback attempt fell short in a 67-63 loss to the Longhorns in the Lake City Classic Tournament at Allatoona High on December 29.

After not letting their deficit grow beyond 10 points the entire game, the Panthers made their late-game push to possibly “steal” the game when Son, who also had five assists, nailed a 3-pointer for a 54-53 score with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Allen sank two free throws to extend Kell’s lead back to three but Armbrester (10 rebounds) responded on the other end with a layup to move the margin back to one.

“The sky is the limit for that kid,” said Therrell coach Eddie Johnson of sophomore Armbrester. “He’s an inside-out player. He’s only going to get better. I got a feeling he is going to be very clutch for us towards the long run. In the first half, he is the only reason we were in the game. Unfortunately, he got in foul trouble. Those charges killed us. He’s got to learn once he drives and they slide over he’s got to find that open man to dump the ball off to.”

After the Longhorns failed to score, Ra’Sean Frederick (nine points) sunk his first foul shot to tie the score at 56-56 with 2:19 remaining but missed his second attempt.

On the following trip down the floor, Najhae Colon (13 points) hit a 3-pointer to place Kell back ahead then Justin Perry (17 points) added two free throws to extend the margin to 61-56 with 90 seconds to play.

Consecutive layups by Armbrester, who was a force in the paint, kept Therrell within striking distance but Colon buried a tough jumper with a minute left and Perry sealed things at the foul line with four successful attempts. He finished 10-of-10 from the stripe.

“It came down to the clutch,” Johnson said. “We were in position to handle it and again it came down to knocking down clutch free throws. We missed a lot of free throws down the stretch and they hit theirs. I tip my hat to Kell. They are a very poised, disciplined team. No. 2 [Perry] has ice water in his veins. He stepped up and knocked down every free throw he took towards the end–it didn’t touch rim at all.”

Cameron Fortson also reached double figures in the scoring department, netting 14 points for the Panthers (11-4).

Scoota Henderson scored 11 points for the Longhorns, who will face Alexander in the title game of the tournament on the final day of 2018.

“I tip my hat to the coaching staff at Kell High school,” Johnson said. “They have a very good program. I love the way they play. They taught us a very valuable lesson. We got to be team oriented defensively and get that help-side charge. We had a lot of opportunities to take advantage of it and missed it but again it’s a learning curve. Games like this are going to make us battled tested. We have to learn from these mistakes.”