ALMA -- In a battle for early supremacy in the boys' 5A-West Conference, Greenbrier rallied from an early deficit Friday night to upend host Alma 80-73.
Both teams came in tied with Russellville atop the conference standings. Junior Kobe Dunlap made sure the Panthers (14-4, 4-1) would remain there, pouring in a game-high 26 points, with four 3-pointers, and answering the Airedales all night long.
"They were denying, so I just had to come off screens hard to get open, and I tried to help my teammates get open when they were denying me." said Dunlap, who kept Greenbrier afloat early with 10 first-quarter points. "This was a tough game for us on the road, so it was great for us to come in here and battle it out for the win."
Alma (12-3, 3-2) jumped out to a 17-6 lead midway through the first quarter, but Dunlap hit two treys to end the quarter, cutting the lead to 19-14.
Senior Tanner Shelton paced the Airedales with 22, including nine in the second quarter. A three by Cejay Mann boosted the lead to 35-28 late in the first half, but Greenbrier got a three from Juwaun Clifton and a tip-in from Dunlap at the buzzer to cut the halftime deficit to 35-33.
"We knew they would come out at home fired up and ready to play," Greenbrier coach Mike Simmons said. "I was just hoping we could withstand them early and settle into our game. We were able to shoot the ball well enough to withstand it."
The Panthers darted out of the gates to start the third quarter on a 9-0 run, including a three from AJ Matthews and a nifty spin move in the lane from Dunlap, jumping to a 42-35 lead less than two minutes in.
"We went on that run to start the second half, and getting that lead was huge for us," Simmons said.
Mann sank another triple to tie it at 47-47 midway through the period, but Greenbrier finished the quarter on a 14-5 run.
A driving layup by Chole Linn gave the Panthers their biggest lead at 70-56 with 5:42 left in the game. But the Airedales responded with an 11-2 run, cutting the margin back to five on a layup by Taelon Peter with 2:30 remaining.
Greenbrier made 6 of 7 free throws in the final 1:39 to ice the game away -- despite two more threes from Mann in the final 30 seconds.
Mann made five threes on the night to finish with 18 points. Peter added 17 for the Airedales.
Clifton scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half for the Panthers.
"Any road win in this conference is just a big, big checkmark for us," Simmons said. "And Alma is definitely one of the toughest places to play."