On Saturday, the West Gadsden Panthers and the Rickards Raiders gave the crowd at Shanks Middle School gym an entertaining game. Rickards scored the first points of the game on a thunderous dunk with 7:56 remaining in the first quarter, and Brandon Shingles quickly responded for the home team by scoring a basket of his own. The score remained tied at two until a dunk by Marquis Brown put the Panthers up by two with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
Both teams had a hard time getting into an offensive rhythm during the first quarter, although at the end of the quarter Patrick Gilyard caused the crowd to cheer when he hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer.
West Gadsden came into the second quarter with a 9-8 advantage over Rickards. It took about three minutes for the Panthers to score the first points of the second quarter. The first half was tough and hard fought by both teams, and with less than one minute to go, the Raiders cut the Panthers lead to a single point. The visiting team’s intense play at the end of the half allowed them to tie the game up 22-22 as they went into the locker room for halftime.
Rickards scored the first points of the third quarter by sinking two free throws, which gave them their first lead since the start of the game. Midway through the third, Panther big man Brown gave the audience an encore as he caught the ball off the rim for another dunk. To end the third, Ricky Ceasor decided to join the dunk party as well when he slammed one home to give West Gadsden a 33-26 advantage over the Raiders entering the final quarter of the game.
With 5:05 to go in the game, Rickards cut the Panthers lead to 5 as the scoreboard displayed a score of 35-30. The Raiders continued to fight, and with 3:24 left in the game they were able to again cut the lead to 1, as the Panthers clung to a 35-34 advantage. The visiting team regained the lead with 1:42 to go in the game as they hit a clutch three-pointer.
The entire gym was filled with excitement, but with 25 seconds to go, Panthers’ point guard Gilyard sunk two clutch free-throws, which were the final points of the game. As the final buzzer sounded, the West Gadsden Panthers ran off the court as the winners of this very competitive game by a score of 43-42. West Gadsden’s Shingles lead all scorers with 13 points, while Brown dominated the glass pulling down 12 rebounds. Let’s see if the Panthers can continue to gain momentum as they head into post-season play.