The Latta Lady Panthers nearly went from one extreme to the other in less than 24 hours during the first half of Friday’s consolation matchup with Beggs at the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.
During a 59-53 first-round loss to Class 4A No. 1 Harrah, Latta shot a blistering 63 percent from the field.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. Latta trailed 16-14 at halftime and had made just 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from the field.
However, the freshman duo of Carson Dean and Hailey Baber came off the bench and scored a combined 20 points on 8-of-8 shooting over the final two quarters and carried the Lady Panthers to a thrilling 42-35 come-from-behind win.
Latta improved to 5-4 overall, while Beggs — ranked No. 8 in Class 3A — fell to 1-2.
“We’ve got a whole bench full of kids that can play. Those freshmen are really working hard and have improved a ton. They’re so young they don’t play with any fear,” said Latta head coach Bruce Plunk. “This team doesn’t care who leads us. It’s all about Ws in the end. It may be someone else tomorrow.”
Trinity Phillips hit a runner near the baseline to put Beggs on top 24-19 at the 1:43 mark of the third quarter.
Dean then scored the next six points on a drive after beating a tough Beggs press and back-to-back baskets via strong moves inside the paint to put Latta ahead 25-24.
Moya Phillips drained a 3-pointer with time running out to give Beggs a 27-25 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Latta opened the final period with a 10-3 surge. During that run, Baber and Dean scored four points apiece. Baber scored on a fast break and had two free throws, while Dean scored back-to-back buckets on a putback and an easy basket after a nice pump fake. The run was capped by two free throws from senior Kendra Hisaw that put the LHS squad ahead 35-30 with 3:46 left in the game.
The Lady Panthers wouldn’t trail again.
Beggs pulled within 35-33 on a triple by Chyniqua Johnson with just under two minutes left, but the Latta freshmen sealed the deal when Dean hit two free throws and Baber followed with another tough fast-break layup with 51 seconds left that pushed the Latta lead to 39-33.
The first half saw Latta commit 12 of its 21 turnovers. The Lady Panthers stayed close by sinking 10-of-16 free throws, including a 5-of-6 effort by Chloe Brinlee.
Dean led the Latta offense with 12 points. She finished 5-of-5 from the field, 2-of-2 from the free-throw line and grabbed four rebounds. Baber added eight points on 3-of-3 shooting.
Latta post player Emma Epperly, who scored 27 points Thursday against Harrah, finished with eight points, six rebounds and three steals for the Lady Panthers.
Brinlee chipped in seven points and had a team-best eight boards.
Phillips hit a trio of 3-pointers to lead Beggs with nine points. Chiawna Johnson scored eight points for the Lady Demons.
NOTE: Beggs features a set of senior triplets on the team — Chyniqua, Cheyenne and Chiawa Johnson. They are part of a group of quads that includes a brother.