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Jemison fights off Thorsby comeback attempt

Jemison cheerleaders sit behind the Jemison bench and await a free throw opportunity during the semifinals of the 2017 county tournament on Jan. 5. (Photos by Anthony Richards)

Jemison cheerleaders sit behind the Jemison bench and await a free throw opportunity during the semifinals of the 2017 county tournament on Jan. 5. (Photos by Anthony Richards)

Jemison advanced to the championship game of the county basketball tournament with a 65-63 victory over Thorsby on Thursday, Jan. 5.

It was an up-and-down game for the Panthers who had built a 38-27 halftime lead, only to see Thorsby erase it in and grab the lead of their own late in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t come quite prepared like we should have today, but we were able to squeeze through and grab a big victory,” Jemison guard Eric Evans said.

When things were clicking for Jemison it was due to good ball movement and an awareness of where each player was on the court. This led to open looks from both long range and in the post.

However, turnovers and carelessness with the ball was a theme throughout the night for the Panthers and the Rebels capitalized down the stretch.

Jemison’s Ryan Thompson avoids the block attempt by Bailey Sellers (No. 13) of Thorsby and scores.

Jemison’s Ryan Thompson avoids the block attempt by Bailey Sellers (No. 13) of Thorsby and scores.

“Their half-court defenses was giving us fits, because we weren’t making strong passes and they were very aggressive,” Jemison head coach Stacy McGehee said. “We didn’t have a couple of good practices before the game and it showed.”

Thorsby outscored Jemison 18-12 in the fourth quarter and regained the lead 60-59 with a couple of minutes left to play, as Noah Byrd delivered an assist to Bailey Sellers in the post for a layup.

During the comeback, Christian Fortner proved to be tough to stop for the Jemison defense and created quite the matchup problem. He finished with a game-high 29 points.

“We struggled to stop Christian tonight, because he was hitting 3’s, but then if we went up on him he would drive it,” McGehee said. “He played a heck of a game.”

Suddenly trailing, Jemison had to refocus themselves for the final minutes and Ryan Thompson did just that by finding Will Johns cutting to the basket for two points and the game winner with 20.6 seconds remaining.

The Panthers will take on longtime rival Chilton County High School in the county championship on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won the county championship,” Evans said. “It would be huge for the seniors for them to go out on top like that.”