Oklahoma City — The Latta Panthers simply wouldn’t be denied.
After a subpar first half that saw them trailing by seven, the Panthers were still down 31-23 after Haworth’s Jerry Threadgill Jr. fast break bucket that followed a steal by Junior Griffin at the halfway point of the third quarter.
Latta had just 12 minutes to turn things around in the Class 2A State championship game that tipped off late Saturday night inside a rockin’ State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
As it turns out, the Panthers had the Lions right where they wanted them.
Latta used a giant 20-4 surge to end the third quarter and start the final period en route to a 57-50 come-from-behind victory that made the Panthers state champions for the second consecutive year.
The second-ranked Panthers improved to 27-4 while No. 3 Haworth ended at 28-5.
The repeat party was still on for the Latta boys.
“What a great accomplishment. Two in a row? Jiminy Christmas. Who would have dreamed of something like that?” said Latta head coach Donnie Husband moments after giving his wife, Hollie, a state championship kiss.
“It’s unbelievable for a guy that has spent 30 years of his life dreaming about being here,” he said. “I’ve sat in those stands and thought, ‘Will I ever be one of those guys?’”
Now, he has been one of those guys in back-to-back seasons.
Latta scored eight of the final nine third-quarter points — including four by post player Derek Epperly — to get within 32-31 heading into the fourth period.
While the Latta defense was clamping down — Haworth didn’t hit a field goal during the entire 20-4 game-changing run — the Panthers kept chipping away on offense. Brogan Cantrell hit two free throws to start the fourth quarter, putting Latta in front for the first time since the second quarter at 33-32.