Latta — The grand opening of the new Latta Panther Fieldhouse couldn’t have gone any better for those wearing black and gold.
With local rival Byng in town, both games were close until the closing minutes before Latta was able to finally take control and pull away for a pair of Panther victories before a crowd of nearly 2,000 mostly pink-clad fans Tuesday night.
In the girls contest, Latta hit seven unanswered free throws in the final 2:21 in a 37-31 victory while a 9-0 fourth-quarter run helped seal the deal in the Panthers’ 53-41 win over Byng in the boys game.
Latta 37, Byng 31
Latta (ranked No. 5 in Class 2A) improved to 10-3 on the year while Byng fell to 8-6.
“That ends a dry spell. We hadn’t beat Byng in a few games. That was a good one, especially for my seniors,” said Latta head coach David Tinkler following the game. “It was just two good defensive teams going at each other. We mixed in a little offense and persevered.”
Byng nearly overcame a dreadful third quarter that saw the Lady Pirates miss 6-of-7 field goals and commit five turnovers. Tatum Hill sank a mid-range baseline jumper off an assist from her sister, Alexis Hill, at the 2:58 mark to trim a Latta lead to 26-21. It would be the last points of the frame.
Byng’s Briauna Delozier rebounded her own shot and scored on a putback to open the fourth quarter and get the Lady Pirates within 26-23. But Krisha Young, who carried the Latta offense in the first half with nine points, hit her only bucket of the final two frames — a pull-up jumper from the baseline — and Laramie Edens followed with a jumper of her own (her only basket of the game) to push the Latta lead to 30-23 with 4:13 to play.
Byng started pressing after a time out with 3:45 to play and that strategy — along with several big plays from Alexis Hill — got the Lady Pirates back in it. Alexis Hill stole the ball and fought past a Latta double team for a basket to spark her team. After another steal, she was fouled and hit two free throws with 3:16 to play to cut the LHS advantage to 30-29. The BHS press again forced a Latta turnover, but this time Byng would give the ball right back.
Young hit a free throw for Latta to make it 31-29 with 2:21 remaining, but Byng still couldn’t get a shot to fall for the tie or the lead.
And the Lady Panthers kept their cool.
“That’s one of the things I told them after the game. I was proud of the way they kept their composure,” Tinkler said.
Latta iced the game with six more free throws — two by Maria Priest at the 1:34 mark, two by Shelbey Parnacher with 51.7 ticks left and two more from Shiann Henderson with 17.7 remaining to push the Latta lead to 37-29.
“We hit some big throws right there at the very end,” Tinkler said.
Asya Tims — who had to be helped off the court with an injury early in the second quarter — scored with less than a second left to account for the final score.
“I thought our defense was great. We just couldn’t score enough in the end,” said Byng head coach Matt Fike. “I can’t fault their effort. I thought we played hard.”
Young finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four steals as Latta’s leader while Priest added eight points and five rebounds off the bench.
Alexis Hill continued her streak of strong outings with 16 points, six rebounds, two steals and four blocked shots to lead the Lady Pirates. Tatum Hill was next with six points.
Byng again was hurt by turnovers, finishing with 20 compared to just 13 for Latta.
Latta 53, Byng 41
Latta (ranked No. 2 in Class 2A) improved to 11-2 while Byng dropped to 10-4.
“It was probably the best game as a group we’ve played in a while,” said Latta head coach Donnie Husband. “We were fortunate the floor opened up and we made a few plays there at the end that got us a couple of easy baskets.”
Byng freshman Darian Luper drained a 3-pointer with 6:40 left in the game that cut a Latta lead to 38-37. Kade Hayes immediately answered by completing a conventional three-point play after a fast-break bucket at the other end that started a pivotal 9-0 Latta run that gave the Panthers some breathing room.
Treston Tully hit the final of his multiple pull-up bank shots to give Latta a 43-37 edge with just over five minutes left. Tully would finish with a game-high 19 points“Treston really did a good job tonight. When you have two senior shooters standing out there that they have to respect, that opens up penetration for him,” Husband said. “I thought it was his best game so far — overall, defense, offense, and everything.”
Tully seemed to hit one of his patented bank shots every time the Panthers needed a basket.
“A lot of those were contested, but he just made some plays. There’s no doubt he’s a talented player. He can really do some things to help you win games,” Husband said.
Brady Johnson got loose for a layup and post man Derek Epperly scored on a fast break to give Latta its first double-digit lead at 47-37 with just under three minutes remaining.
“They are so good defensively that everything is tough around the basket. Once we kind of got a little lead and made them spread out a little bit, I thought we handled that real well at the end,” Husband said.
Byng led 27-25 after Reid Wall drove to the basket and scored just before the halftime buzzer. But the Panthers would outscore the Pirates 28-14 over the final two frames.
Hayes and Epperly both added 10 points apiece in Latta’s balanced attack while Johnson added eight and Carter Kessinger sank two 3-pointers off the bench.
Joe Nemecek looked like he was in store for a monster night for Byng after scoring seven points and grabbing eight rebounds in the first quarter and helping Byng jump out to a 12-6 lead. He would finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Dineh Bohan just missed double figures with nine points for the Pirates. Eight different players scored for Byng.
Both schools are headed to tournaments this weekend.
The Byng teams meet host Purcell at 6:30 and 7:50 p.m. at the 2014 Heart of Oklahoma Tournament.
The Latta girls meet Kingston at 2:30 p.m. and the Panthers battle Davis at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Tishomingo Invitational.