For the second consecutive year and the fifth time in seven years, the Union Co. Panthers are headed to the Class AA state basketball playoffs.
Union Co. (14-10) defeated Elbert Co. (9-18) on Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the quarterfinals of the Region 8-AA tournament in Blairsville, 66-49.
The win earns the third-seeded Panthers a back-to-back visit to the state playoffs and a date with the second seed, Social Circle (19-6), on Thursday, at 5:30 p.m., at Rabun Co. High in Tiger.
While the game was close early, senior Pierson Allison made shot inside with 2:24 left in the first quarter gave the Panthers a 12-11 lead and they never trailed again on the way to the win.
Allison finished with game-high 23 points to lead the way for the Panthers.
While Allison was dominant early, fellow senior Sawyer Drake took over late.
Drake scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers ran away with the big win.
Union Co. dominated in the paint, with Allison and Drake getting to the glass at will, and senior Kyle Morlock scoring nine points from the post.
After trailing 11-10 with 2:36 left in the first quarter, the Panthers ended the first half on a 23-9 run to take a 33-20 lead into the break.
The Blue Devils never threatened in the second half as Union Co. ran away with the victory.
Sophomore Logan Helcher scored five points, sophomore Landon Kight scored four, senior Sawyer Brey scored three, and junior Kaston Hemphill added two to round out the scoring for the Panthers.
Now Union Co. will play for the opportunity to host a state playoff game.
Union Co. has lost twice this season to Social Circle, but both losses were by a combined 10 points. The Panthers fell 45-40 on Dec. 17 in Social Circle, before losing 54-49 on Jan. 21 in Blairsville.