Panthers fall to Handley on senior night

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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The Lanett Panthers fought against the Handley Tigers at home on Tuesday, but Handley’s speed was too much in Lanett’s 63-50 loss.

Lanett’s Elijah Whitfield and Jr. Bynum each had 15 points, but it wasn’t enough to outscore the Tigers.

Lanett head coach Tay McCants feels like his team was too slow.

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“Handley didn’t really do much. We just came out flat,” McCants said.

“We didn’t show energy in the fourth quarter. I felt like we were faster. We just didn’t take care of business. If we played with the speed we usually do, we would’ve beat them by at least 15.”

The first quarter was a physical battle between two scrappy teams who play fast.

The Panthers opened on a 4-0 run thanks to a three pointer by Elijah Whitfield and a free throw from Jr. Bynum.

The Tigers pushed back with their own three, but Keondae Hughley hit a basket to give the Panthers a 6-3 lead.

Handley went on a 7-0 run to take a 10-6 lead, but Bynum broke the run with a layup.

The Panthers were able to close the Handley lead to 13-11 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a Whitfield basket.

The second quarter was a different story for the Panthers as Elijah Whitfield and Bynum each hit a basket to give Lanett a 16-13 lead at the start of the second quarter.

Lanett didn’t give up the lead until a few minutes left in the second quarter when the Tigers took a 23-22 lead.

Senior Elijah Whitfield stepped up with a steal and a basket to retake the lead, and Whitfield capitalized on another steal to make it 26-23 at halftime.

The second half was all Handley as the Panthers couldn’t slow down the Tigers’ transition attack.

The Panthers actually held the lead for the majority of the third quarter thanks to six points from Bynum, but Handley’s Cannon Kyles scored 14 in the third to give Handley a 46-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Things got out of hand for the Panthers as Handley opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 tun to take a quick 56-43 lead.

The Panthers couldn’t recover, and Handley walked home with a 13 point win.

McCants knows there’s plenty of work to be done after the loss.

“We played sluggish,” McCants said.

“We weren’t pushing the ball in transition. We  weren’t making our defensive assignments. In the first three quarters, we caused turnovers, and we rebounded well. We didn’t make as many free throws as we would like, and we didn’t make them play faster than they wanted to play.”

One of the bright spots McCants saw from his team was junior Jr. Bynum.

“He did a good job tonight,” McCants said.

“He didn’t score as many points as he did last game, but he still fought on the defensive end and rebounded well.”

Lanett’s last two games are brutal as the Panthers have to travel to Valley on Thursday and Smiths Station on Friday.

“We have to get some rest tonight and be ready to get work in practice tomorrow,” McCants said.

“We don’t play a dumbed down schedule. Playing against teams like Valley, Handley and Smiths Station is only getting us ready for the playoffs. We need to fight.”