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Panthers fall short of state tournament bid after 69-68 loss to Portsmouth

Chesapeake Panthers’ senior guard Nathan Copley drives for two of his 22 points against Portsmouth in the Division III regional finals Saturday. The Panthers lost 69-68. (The Ironton Tribune / Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

ATHENS — The uniforms looked familiar, the name on the jersey was the same as always, but for some reason this wasn’t the same team fans had seen all season.

The Chesapeake Panthers didn’t look like themselves and for part of the game didn’t play like them either.

As it turned out, the ending wasn’t the usual as the Panthers dropped a heartbreaking 69-68 decision to the Portsmouth Trojans in the Division III regional championship game Saturday night at the Ohio University Convocation Center.

“We didn’t do a good job guarding them and at the end we let them get down the lane. We weren’t helping like we should,” said Panthers’ coach Ryan Davis.

“I don’t know what it was. We just didn’t play like we can and Portsmouth played well. They have a good team.”

Portsmouth’s Wayne Evans drove for a layup with four seconds left to erase a one-point deficit and put his team ahead.

“We were going to give the ball to (Andrew) Bendolph because he had a lot of success getting to the basket all night,” said Trojans’s coach Eugene Collins. “I told Wayne if they deny Andrew — and they did — to take the ball to the basket.”

Evans was fouled on the play but missed the free throw and Austin McMaster grabbed the rebound for the Panthers.

After a timeout, Nathan Copley hurriedly got the ball down the court but his 3-point attempt was off to the left.

Unlike previous games, the Panthers started slow as they hit only 3 of 14 shots the first quarter and fell behind 15-7.

The Trojans had their biggest lead of the game in the first quarter at 15-5.

Behind the scoring of McMaster with 14 points, Chesapeake roared back to within one point on two occasions in the second quarter including 23-22 with under three minutes to go in the half.

Evans had a trifecta to make it 29-24 but a layup by McMaster and a foul shot by Copley cut the spread to 31-27 at the break.

Patrick Hintz — who sat for much of the game in foul trouble — hit a 3-pointer to start the second half and get the Panthers within 31-30.

A layup by Dion McKinley had the Trojans up 43-38 but Copley drained a long 3-pointer and it was a two-point game.

A layup by Copley made it 47-44 before Bendolph scored inside and it was 49-44 at the end of the quarter.

Bendolph hit another layup to begin the fourth quarter as Portsmouth opened up a 51-44 lead.

Chesapeake took its first lead of the game at 52-51 on a 3-point play by Colin Kennedy with 6:29 to go.

The Trojans came back to lead 62-56 with 2:07 left on two foul shots by Bendolph, but Eric Kennedy hit back-to-back treys and the Panthers were within 64-62.

Trailing 67-62, Chesapeake sliced the deficit to 67-66 on a layup and two foul shots by Copley who then stole the ball with 19 seconds to go.

Eric Kennedy was fouled and made two free throws with 11 seconds on the clock to put the Panthers up 68-67.

That set up Evans’ driving layup.

McMaster led the Panthers with 23 points and Copley scored 22. Eric Kennedy finished with 10 points — eight in the fourth quarter.

Bendolph had 22 points including 10 of 15 from the foul line. The Trojans were 19 of 28 from the line as a team and shot 24 of 48 from the field.

Evans scored 19 points and McKinley had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Portsmouth (21-4) won its 16th straight game to earn a trip to the state semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday against Cleveland Central Catholic.

The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Panthers who finished 23-2 and were denied a second straight trip to the state tournament.

Portsmouth 15 16 18 20 = 69

Chesapeake 7 20 17 24 = 68

PORTMSOUTH (21-4): Zaide Whitley 0 1 0-0 3, Andrew Bendolph 6 0 10-15 22, Wayne Evans 4 1 8-11 19, Dion McKinley 8 0 1-2 17, Tre Underwood 3 0 0-0 6, Seth Bratchett 0 0 0-0 0, Len Collins 0 0 0-0 0, Mason Jordan 1 0 0-0 2. Totals: 224-48 19-28 69. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: Underwood (4th 6:29). 3-point goals: 2-6. Rebounds: 9 offense, 17 defense = 26 (McKinley 12, Underwood 5). Assists: 10 (Bendolph 4, Evans 4). Steals: 12 (Evans 7, Bendolph 4). Turnovers: 12.

CHESAPEAKE (23-2): Nathan Copley 6 2 4-7 22, Patrick Hintz 0 2 0-0 6, Javon Thompson 0 0 0-0 0, Austin McMaster 10 0 3-4 23, Colin Kennedy 3 0 1-1 7, Eric Kennedy 0 2 4-4 10, Brandon Noble 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-47 12-16 68. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Hintz (4th 1:11). 3-point goals: 6-13. Rebounds: 10 offense, 14 defense = 24 (McMaster 9, C. Kennedy 7). Assists: 8 (Copley 4). Steals: 5 (Copley 3). Turnovers: 19.