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May 11, 2008

Panthers squeeze Juice out of iS8

Sparked by the St. Raymond High School tandem of Omari Lawrence and Kevin Parrom, the 13-seed Panthers Juniors knocked the 3-seed Juice All-stars out of the iS8 Tournament on Saturday with a 76-72 win in the Round of 16.

Even with its superstar guard Lance Stephenson out of town, Juice still boasted a strong lineup of four players from PSAL city champion Abraham Lincoln, plus other stars from around the city. The Panthers, however, outworked Juice on the glass and played with poise down the stretch to pull off the minor upset.

Juice started off looking much like a 3-seed should, with a Vincent Councilfollow giving the All-stars a 7-2 advantage, but the Panthers answered with a 6-0 run to take their first lead. Juice got back on top at 11-8, but Kevin Parrom, who had eight points in the first, scored a pair of buckets to keep the Panthers afloat. The game went into the second quarter tied 15-15.

The second period brought a see-saw battle, with neither team leading by more than three points throughout the stanza. Lawrence and Parrom combined for eight in the quarter for the Panthers, while Justin Greene racked up seven for Juice. The Panthers led 33-32 at the break.

Early in the third, Parrom began to take over and attempted to give the Panthers some breathing room. After a three-pointer by James Johnson gave Juice the lead, Parrom scored seven points on a 9-0 Panther run, giving the juniors a 42-35 cushion.

Johnson fed Greene for a lay-up to cut the lead to 42-39, but the Panthers responded by scoring five of the next six to go back ahead by seven. Johnson then nailed a three to make it 47-43, but Lawrence matched him with a trey of his own. The Panthers eventually took a 52-47 lead into the fourth.

The juniors still had Juice at bay when they went ahead 58-51, but a follow by Greene and a three-pointer by Darwin "Buddha" Ellis trimmed the Juice deficit to two.

Soon thereafter, Ellis gave Juice its first lead since early in the second half, draining a three to put the All-stars up 63-62.

Lawrence, however, answered with a tough step back jumper, and then converted a three-point play after a Juice basket to put the Panthers back on top, 67-65.

A transition lay-up by Ellis tied the game, but Panther guard Mike Poole hit a floater from the baseline, and after Ellis missed on the other end, Parrom converted a three-point play of his own, giving the Panthers a 72-67 advantage.

Juice got within four at 74-70 and had the ball with around 30 seconds remaining, but Johnson airballed a three, and the Panthers held on for a four-point win.

Parrom led all scorers with 25 points, and Lawrence chipped in with 15 points for the Panthers, while Greene topped Juice with 17 points.

Panthers Juniors now moves on to the iS8 Quarterfinals, where it will face the Unique All-stars at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

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