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The Horseshoe Bend boys and girls basketball teams took the court for the first time this season welcoming the Elmore County Panthers. Both games ended in close losses with the boys in particular coming down to the final 11/2 seconds. 

The boys basketball team played well in the first half with Horseshoe Bend’s Cole Johnson and Elmore County’s Keshawn Benson going blow for blow, exchanging three-pointers on both ends. For most of the game the Generals found themselves down three points, until a couple blocked shots and a transition three-pointer tied the game up, 38-38, at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter started off very well for the Panthers, getting quick buckets while the Generals missed four straight shots and accumulated fouls that slowed down their aggressiveness. 

The Panthers also started defending Johnson hard, forcing him to pass the ball or take it inside where the advantage was clearly with Elmore County. 

“Our guys aren’t that big so we find other ways to get rebounds and produce offense,” Horseshoe Bend boys basketball coach Chad Kison said. “Cole has a great shot so when he is consistent we try to feed him the ball as much as possible.”

Elmore County eventually found its answer for Johnson, eking out a 58-54 victory. With 2:10 left in the game the Panthers were up by 10 and ready to head home, but they didn’t expect Horseshoe Bend to fight back the way it did. Smart defense and well-timed fouls put the Generals right back into the game, and with six seconds left the Generals inbounded the ball to Holt Tidwell who took the ball past half court. Tidwell chucked up and made a three that sent the building into a frenzy and the Generals to within two points. 

The Panthers inbounded the ball with 11/2 seconds left to Matthew Stephenson who was fouled and sent to the line with the game in his hands. Stephenson sunk the two free throws, and with .4 seconds on the clock the lead was four points out of Horseshoe Bend’s reach. 

“The guys are upset we lost,” Kison said. “They should be proud though. We played hard and made clutch shots to keep us in the game when we could have quit.” 

Things didn’t go according to plan for the Generals in the girls basketball game either, falling to the Panthers 37-27 and giving up a slim halftime lead. 

The Generals did a nice job of setting up pick-and-roll plays on offense and getting back on defense, forcing turnovers and went into the half with a 17-18 lead over the Panthers. 

The second half was a different story on offense. The pick-and-roll plays were still giving the Generals space, but the shots were not falling. And although they gave up only 20 second-half points, the Generals could only muster up nine points in the final two quarters. 

“We rushed our shots,” Horseshoe Bend girls basketball coach Erica Meigs said. “It was our first game so they were nervous, but we need to do the little stuff better.”

Elmore County girls basketball coach Amy Rachel made good second-half adjustments, slowing the game down and speeding it up to benefit her team and also keep the Generals guessing on defense. 

The Panthers dominated the paint in the second half, in large part do to junior center Emerald Britt who had 14 points and nine rebounds, leading both teams in points and rebounds. 

Eight points from Cheyenne Thornton and nine rebounds from Seanna Odaniel also played key factors into the Elmore County victory. 

“I’m not disappointed,” Meigs said. “They played well for a first game of the season and for playing a good (Class) 4A team. I feel confident and good about the season.” 

Ryne Gallacher is a regular columnist and correspondent for The Outlook.