KONAWA — Konawa’s Lady Tigers passed what figured to be the biggest test on their pre-Christmas schedule Tuesday night — but not before Latta asked some very tough questions in the second half.

The visiting Lady Panthers (ranked No. 12 in Class 2A) clawed away almost all of a 10-point halftime deficit, closing to within a single point twice after intermission. In the end, though, Konawa — ranked No. 3 in 2A — always had an answer, escaping with a tense 48-44 victory to remain unbeaten on the young season.

“It was a game of runs,” fourth-year coach Gordon Garner said after seeing his club win its third straight to open the most highly anticipated season for the Konawa girls basketball program in years. “The second half looked like follies.

“We felt at halftime we had let some things get away from us, because we had some easy shots and we didn’t convert,” added Garner, whose club — a mix of veterans and young talent — was outrebounded (30-25) by the Lady Panthers and shot less than 40 percent (20-for-52) from the field. “Latta’s a good team, and we knew they would make a run at us. They’ve played a tough schedule, and they’re battle-tested. Hopefully it’s a sign of a good team when you’re not at your best and you can still hang on and win against a good team.”

In the boys contest, Latta got another double-double from senior center Jeremi Correll and another solid outing from freshman Reed Johnson and rebounded from Friday’s blowout loss at Byng with a sloppy but convincing 59-32 victory over the outmanned Tigers.

GIRLS

Konawa 48, Latta 44

Despite hitting just 6-of-22 second-half shots and losing the battle of the boards, the Lady Tigers did two things very well — they forced 27 turnovers and they did a remarkable defensive job on Latta star Skyler Jenson.

One of the area’s two or three best players during the first month of the season, Jenson — a junior forward who had scored in double figures in four of Latta’s first five games — pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds, but she took just two shots (both in the second quarter) and finished with two points on a night when the Lady Panthers’ other three returning starters — junior forward Molly McQuay and senior guards Keisha Williams and Lacie Lawson — combined to go 12-for-21 from the field and score all but eight of Latta’s points.

“We knew they were going to go inside-out with their offense,” Garner said. “Our goal was to make it tough on Skyler and Molly.”

Although McQuay finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, she also didn’t take a shot in the third quarter and took just one in the entire second half after scoring 10 points before the break. Instead, Latta coach David Tinkler turned his backcourt for offense during a blistering rally over the first six minutes after intermission.

Williams, who scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half, had nine in the third quarter and combined with Lawson to account for all of Latta’s 15 points in the period. After Williams drained a 3-pointer from the corner off a Jenson feed and hit a short jumper in the lane off a McQuay assist in the span of 45 seconds to trim the Konawa lead to 29-24 with 5:10 left in the quarter, Lawson answered a layup by Konawa center Rehea Grant 14 seconds later with a 3-pointer at the 4:40 mark, and Williams added a short pull-up jumper with four minutes left to suddenly make it a two-point game at 31-29.

Latta (3-3, with its three losses to Top 10 teams from Konawa, Dale and Bethel) closed to within a point for the first time on a pair of Williams free throws with 1:58 left in the quarter before Grant hit a layup off an assist from sophomore Kassandra McClain on an inbounds play with 51 seconds remaining. McClain followed with a spinning layup in traffic 13 seconds later to cap a fast break and send Konawa to the fourth quarter with a 39-34 lead.

But the Lady Tigers — who had leads of 10-1, 21-10 and 27-16 in the first half — didn’t have a field goal over the first 4:40 of the final period, and Latta took advantage of the cold snap to again trim the Konawa lead to one. Autumn Lawrence banked in a short jumper (her first shot of the game) just 20 seconds into the final period and McQuay added a fast-break layup off a Williams assist with 4:55 left to make it 39-38. Konawa answered again, however, getting a free throw from Grant, a fast-break layup from sophomore Sydney Stoup and a conventional 3-point play by senior Hilary Kuestersteffen in a span of just 42 seconds to extend the lead to 45-38 with 3:03 left.

A Lawrence 3-pointer with a defender in her face 40 seconds later again made it a four-point game, but Latta managed just three free throws the rest of the way and couldn’t get closer than three points down the stretch.

“We had our opportunities to take that game away from them,” said Latta coach David Tinkler, whose club has played the area’s toughest schedule so far and lost in overtime to 2A No. 1 Dale to open the season. “We just had too many silly turnovers.”

Latta shot 54 percent (15-for-28) from the field and held every Konawa player except Stoup (who was 4-for-8 and finished with eight points) below 50 percent from the field for the game.

Grant led Konawa with 14 points and six rebounds, but she was just 6-for-16 from the field and 2-for-6 from the free throw line, and senior guard Kelsey Howard was sensational over the first 10 minutes of the game, scoring seven of her 11 points and adding three steals, three rebounds and two assists. She went to the bench with her second foul with 5:47 left in the half, however, and was just 1-for-5 from the field after the break. McClain scored six points and added three rebounds (two offensive), two steals and three assists in the win.

BOYS

Latta 59, Konawa 32

Konawa (1-2) raced to an early 5-0 lead, but Latta (4-2) scored 38 of the next 50 points, including 10 straight to start the third quarter after grabbing a 28-17 lead at the break.

Johnson, who finished with 13 points and has scored in double figures in five of Latta’s first six games, had 10 points in the first half, and senior Steven Reed scored all six of his points before the break. Correll, who was neutralized in the Panthers’ 55-35 loss at Byng, came back with his fourth double-double of the season, scoring 10 points, pulling down 15 rebounds and adding four assists and two blocked shots.

Senior point guard Dalton Brown was also in double figures with 11 points (seven in the second half), and sophomore Wacey Henders was 4-for-6 after intermission after taking just one shot in the first half and finished with eight points off the bench for the Panthers.

Skyland Tanyan scored eight points and Cylas Foster added seven to lead Konawa.

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