It has been a long time coming for the Therrell Panthers and their fans but the Class AA trophy is coming back to Panther Trail. After a close and tight 51-49 victory over the Vidalia Indians, players, coaches, students and fans were dancing and rejoicing their first state title at Macon Centreplex.

The Vidalia offense ignited in the second quarter, as they jumped off to a 16-14 lead 50 seconds in.

That lead included an 8-0 run started with a tough contested layup by Indians point guard Mark Wardraw. Indians forward Toriun Mull scored the next six points to conclude the run.

The most of the second quarter belonged to the Indians as they lead 24-15, their largest lead of the game. Morton and the Panthers answered after a sequence of technical fouls were assessed against the Indians.

With less than 10 seconds left, down 26-24, guard Morton got open and converted on a long three pointer from the half court logo as time expired to put the Panthers in front 27-26 going into halftime.

“As a team we had to keep fighting and not give up,” said Zyquon Morton. “[Coach] told us at halftime, “Do not let up, we’re not going home without the win,”

The third quarter consisted of four lead changes but the Panthers held a 38-35 lead going into the fourth. The Panthers stayed in control until the Indians narrowed their lead down to three.

It was 1:05 to go in regulation and Indians guard Adam McCloud made a three pointer to make the score 49-46. Panthers point guard Roman Sun was fouled and made one of his two free throws, increasing the Panthers lead to four.

The Indians needed a bucket with less than 23 seconds to go.This time, Wardraw answered with a three pointer to cut the Panthers lead to one with seven seconds to go.

A turnover by the Panthers gave the Indians an opportunity to score. However, the Indians turned the ball over, needing to foul and put Panthers forward Cameron Foster on the free throw line.

Foster made one of his two free throws, but with .3 seconds left in regulation, the Indians did not have time to get off a shot as time expired.

“This is special because we built this program from the ground up. We came in with nothing and we got the pieces we needed,” said Therrell Panthers head coach Eddie Johnson. “They came in as freshman, sophomore year they came back and made it to the elite eight, and junior year we won the state. They’re going to be seniors next year. Our goal is to repeat and be right back here in the same position. I got some young talent coming in right after them and I can’t wait to see what next year holds.”

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