The Panthers’ boys basketball team had been anticipating the start of divisional play all season, especially after a great 3-1 start. The Panthers took on rival Blake last Friday on the road and many students came out to support Paint Branch, which meant that Blake’s gym was packed, and hot, as usual, on the chilly Friday evening.
The Panthers started out with a great offensive effort led by junior guard Richard Dudley who scored 15 of the Panther’s 17 points in the first 5 minutes of the game. Blake’s quick offense kept up with Paint Branch, however, but PB held a solid 5 point lead for the quarter.
Early in the secord quarter, senior forward Xavier Reaves was locked in, hitting a few threes from the corner. The Panthers began to pull away from the Bengals with lockdown defense in the paint from senior forward Chris Mayaka and sophomore Jordan Alphonso. Blake had a quick spark in their defense as well, and forced PB into turnovers to get points off the fast break. All of this allowed Blake to cut down the lead to just 3, with two and a half minutes left in the first half.
With the game’s intensity ratcheted up, the crowd became silent as those in attendance realized that PB head coach Chris Bohlen was having a medical emergency on the Panther sideline. Bohlen, in his third year coaching PB, had to be transported to a hospital after falling ill.
After the EMTs arrived and Coach Bohlen left the gym with a wave to the crowd to signal that he would be okay, the crowd erupted and coaches and officials met to discuss whether or not the game would continue.
The Panthers made the difficult choice to continue the contest and, inspired by Coach Bohlen’s absence, exploded on both sides of the court forcing turnovers and scoring. The Panthers extended their lead from 3 to 11 within one minute of play. After the excitement, the Panthers walked into the locker room with a big 55-39 lead over the Bengals at the half.
When play resumed after halftime, the Panthers D yet again forced turnovers from blocks and steals by Mayaka and Alphonso. On a fast break, Mayaka took advantage of a mismatch and flew to the hoop with an electrifying dunk to seal the deal for the Panthers. The overpowering offense led Paint Branch to a 111-95 win. Dudley had a game high 41 points and big contributions from Reaves, 18 points, and Mayaka, 14 points, helped the Panthers to the big win.
Players and fans look forward to more dominating games like these as divisional play continues.