With the playoffs rapidly approaching, making free throws — especially late in the game — has never been more important. In fact, many times free throw attempts can be the difference between winning and losing.
Both Latta High School teams made difference-making free throws Friday night in a showdown with rival Byng Saturday night inside the Bill Koller Fieldhouse.
Shelbey Parnacher hit six fourth-quarter free throws — including a pair with nine seconds left — to help the Lady Panthers slip past Byng 38-37.
In the boys game, the Panthers hit 12-of-14 fourth-quarter charity shots in a 43-33 victory over the host Pirates.
Latta 38, Byng 37
After Parnacher hit what turned out to be the winning free throw, Byng (10-10) committed a turnover before getting a shot off.
Krisha Young missed the front end of a one-and-one for Latta (No. 8 in Class 2A) with 5.1 ticks left, giving the Lady Pirates one last chance. But a desperation 3-pointer by Alexis Hill at the buzzer was well off the mark.
“We were just hoping we got the last shot and the last score just like they were,” said Latta head coach David Tinkler. “That’s usually what it comes down to when we play them. It was a good W, especially this time of the year.”
Hill had hit two free throws with 27.4 seconds left to put Byng on top 37-36. And after a Latta missed field goal, Asya Tims missed a free shot with 13.6 remaining.
Parnacher then made a strong move to the basket, was fouled and sank here deciding free throws. The Latta senior hadn’t scored until her six pack of fourth-quarter free throws.
“The bottom line was, I told Shelbey to go get the ball. It wasn’t anything ingenious. It wasn’t anything I drew up. I just told her she had to go handle the ball. And she did. That was pretty big for us,” Tinkler said.
Latta led 31-22 after Shiann Henderson nailed a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter.
But Byng immediately began chipping away.
Makenzie Hudson, who recently returned to the Byng lineup after recovering from an injury, scored back-to-back baskets on drives to the bucket and Hill followed with a free throw and a driving layup of her own that capped a 7-0 surge that got the Lady Pirates within 31-29 with 5:20 left.
There was a tie and five lead changes down the stretch.
“I don’t know that anything either one of us did was very pretty but somewhere along the line both of us did some pretty good things effectively. It was two good defensive teams going right at each other,” Tinkler said. “They made a good run at us. When you’re rolling into the playoffs, you want to try and find something to build on and I think this was a good positive.”
Latta (15-5) got a game-high 15 points from sophomore Sydney Brinlee, who hit 7-of-12 field goals and carried the Latta offense throughout the game. Parnacher had three steals to go with her six points.
Hill turned in another solid all-around outing for Byng, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals. She finished 10-of-13 from the free throw stripe. Sheyanne Gove and Hudson added seven points each for the Lady Pirates.
As a team, Byng hit 16-of-24 free throws compared to 11-of-16 for Latta.
The first half was nip and tuck all the way before a putback by Grove late in the second quarter knotted the score at 19-all at the break.
The Lady Pirates missed all five of their field goals in the third quarter as Latta used a 9-3 run to go on top 28-22.
Latta 43, Byng 33
The Pirates (15-6) trailed 26-15 after Latta big man Derek Epperly scored early in the third quarter. However, Byng held the Panthers without a field goal until Treston Tully hit from close range with 5:35 left in the fourth period. That allowed the Pirates to use an 11-1 run to get within 27-26 after a steal and layup by freshman Darian Davis for the first basket of the fourth quarter.
After Tully’s bucket, the Panthers (No. 2 in Class 2A) hit seven unanswered free throws to go on top 36-26 and Byng could never catch up after that.
“It’s about the only way we could score in the second half,” said Latta head coach Donnie Husband. “We found a few things in the first half that worked for us, but in the second half they made some adjustments and we got a little impatient at times and kind of got stagnant.”
Epperly, Brady Johnson, Brogan Cantrell and Cade Hayes all hit fourth-quarter free throws for the Panthers.
“I’m comfortable with any one of our guys standing up there. You just have to hit them,” Husband said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s superstitious about it. When you go to the line, it’s important. If you don’t hit them, I’m going to say something about it. You have to make them. We have kids that are good shooters. Just like everybody else, we put the time in and they put the time in to do it.”
The Panthers hit just 3-of-11 field goals over the final two quarters. Husband said his defense bailed the offense out.
“Our defense kept us alive. It was our backbone all night,” he said. “We did a great job of guarding them. When you keep doing that, your offense can eventually catch up a little bit. We’ve been there before and kind of found a way out of it.”
Latta (17-3) buried the Pirates early, starting the game with an impressive 17-4 run capped by a 3-pointer from Carter Kessinger. Byng was ice cold during the first 11-plus minutes of the game, hitting just one of its first 11 field goals.
The Pirates would outscore Latta 22-10 to get within a single point before the visitors finally put the game away from the free throw line.
Epperly and Tully scored nine points each to pace the Latta offense while Bhyng got nine points from Reid Wall and Hunter Capps followed with eight.
Weather permitting, Byng is scheduled to play at Lindsay tonight while Latta is at home against local rival Roff.