LATTA — Harry Houdini would have been proud of the magic act the Latta Lady Panthers almost pulled off in their showdown with Tishomingo Tuesday night at the Bill Johnson Field House.

Before the game began, the Lady Panthers saw their high-scoring duo of junior forwards Molly McQuay and Skyler Jenson sawed in half when McQuay rolled her left ankle in pregame warm-ups. Then they saw Jenson disappear when she picked up her fifth foul late in the fourth quarter.

In between, Latta pulled one rabbit after another out of its hat, but the Lady Panthers simply couldn’t come up with a grand finale and fell, 51-46, in a battle of the 13th-ranked team in Class 3A (Tishomingo) and 17th-ranked girls squad in 2A (Latta). The loss was the fourth in seven games for Latta to start the season, with all four coming against ranked squads (Tish, 2A No. 1 Dale, 2A No. 2 Konawa and 3A No. 6 Bethel).

Tish, meanwhile, has opened the season 6-1, with the Lady Indians’ only loss to Bethel (42-34) in a tournament final Saturday.

Latta’s boys squad also had its difficulties before breaking open a tight game in the fourth quarter en route to beating Tish, 56-42, behind 20 points from senior center Jeremi Correll and a huge fourth quarter from senior guard Dalton Brown.

GIRLS

Tishomingo 51, Latta 46

Despite being out-quicked by the Lady Indians for most of the night and turning the ball over 20 times through three quarters, Latta led 35-31 heading to the fourth, due in large part to double-digit scoring efforts by Jenson and senior guard Lacie Lawson to that point and solid contributions from an improving group of role and bench players.

But Lawson, who finished with a team-high 13 points, and Jenson (who had 10) combined for only two points (a pair of Lawson free throws) in the final period, and when Jenson picked up her fifth foul with 2:52 to play and Latta down 44-39, the Lady Panthers had only Lawson, her struggling backcourt mate Keisha Williams and role players on the floor to deal with a Tishomingo squad that had already scored 13 of the first 17 points in the period.

Williams, who missed her first five shots and had been on the bench for most of the fourth quarter, returned in Jenson’s place and promptly hit a baseline jumper off a feed from sophomore Sara Miller to trim the Tish lead to three with 1:47 to play. But the Lady Indians went on a 6-2 run over the next minute, and by the time Latta hit another field goal (a layup by Williams with 13 seconds left), the issue had already been decided.

Tish center Lacey Dickerson, who spent most of the first three quarters on the bench with foul trouble of her own, was the catalyst for the Lady Indians’ fourth-quarter explosion, hitting all four of her team’s field goals and accounting nine of its 20 points in the period before she finally fouled out in the final seconds with a game-high 16 points.

Dickerson also scored the first two baskets in a 6-0 Tish run to start the game, and a pair of 3-pointers by Caley Westberry in the span of 50 seconds put the Lady Indians on top 12-4 with 3:30 left in the opening quarter. The lead grew to 10 (16-6) on a fast-break layup by Kenzie Parker after a steal by Kylie Forster (one of nine turnovers in the period for the Lady Panthers, who turned the ball over five times in the first two minutes without getting off a shot) and again at 18-8 on a steal and layup by Forster just 30 seconds into the second quarter.

A layup by Autumn Lawrence and a 3-pointer by Lawson off a Jenson assist over the next minute ignited an 8-0 Latta run, however, capped by a pair of Jenson free throws with 6:05 left in the half after a technical was called on Tishomingo head coach Boyd Houser.

The Lady Indians answered with a 5-0 spurt of their own over the next 1:09 to extend the lead back to seven (33-26) before the Lady Panthers scored the final 11 points in the half. Lawson started the spurt with a 3-pointer off another Jenson assist to make it 23-19, and she fed Miller for a layup to make it 23-21 at the 3:32 mark.

A pair of free throws by Cassie Brown (who came off the bench to score seven points and grab two steals) 28 seconds later tied the game for the first time, and Miller hit two free throws after she was fouled on a rebound to give the Lady Panthers their first lead with 1:26 left in the half. Lawson then capped the spurt with a putback of a Williams miss to send Latta to the locker room with a surprising 27-23 lead after a half that saw the Lady Panthers turn the ball over 13 times but go 9-for-16 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.

Tish started the third quarter on a 7-0 run fueled by Latta turnovers on six straight possessions after a Williams miss to start half, but Lawson righted the ship with a 3-pointer off a feed from Caitlyn James to tie the score at 30-all, and a pair of free throws by Jenson (her final points of the night) and a 3-pointer by Brown off a Lawson assist in the span of 31 seconds gave Latta its biggest lead of the game at 35-30 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Lady Indians scored the next eight points, however, tying the score on a driving layup by Dickerson and taking the lead for good on a pair of Cody Gardner free throws with 5:37 to play.

Although Lawson (who also had four assists, three rebounds and a steal) and Jenson (who had three assists and a team-high five rebounds but failed to hit a basket in three of four quarters for the second straight game) were the only two Latta players in double figures, Brown, Lawrence (who started in place of McQuay and finished with six points and a steal) and Miller (five points and two assists off the bench) also had solid games in the loss.

Forster (12 points, 5 rebounds and two steals) and Westberry (10 points) joined Dickerson in double figures for Tishomingo.

BOYS

Latta 56, Tishomingo 42

Correll, who is averaging almost a double-double for the season, scored 20 points through three quarters and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds before fouling out late in a fourth quarter that began with Latta (5-2) leading just 41-36. Although Correll didn’t score in the final period, Brown took up the slack, accounting for seven of Latta’s 15 points and leading a defensive effort that limited Tish (1-6) to 3-for-for-10 shooting and forced six turnovers.

Brown’s 3-point play with 4:25 remaining (after his steal at the other end) put the Panthers on top 44-36, and after Kayle Shields drained a baseline jumper to cut the lead to six for the final time, Brown grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup to extend the lead back to eight.

The third steal in the period (and the fifth of the game) for Latta sophomore Wacey Henderson led to a 3-pointer at the other end for freshman Reed Johnson (off a Brown assist), and Brown and Henderson combined for six straight free throws in the final 33 seconds to seal the win.

“Dalton played a great game,” Latta coach Donnie Husband said. “He took over in the fourth quarter.”

Until Brown’s fourth-quarter explosion, though, the Panthers struggled to put away a Tishomingo squad that trailed 10-1 after a Henderson jumper with 2:46 left in the opening quarter and by 10 (39-29) after Brown drove to the basket for a layup with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

In fact, the Indians trimmed the Latta lead to 22-19 on a fast-break layup by Jeremy Ferguson with 48 seconds left in the half (after a steal by Tanner Bryan at the other end) before Johnson — who didn’t start because he missed several practices last week due to illness — drained a 3-pointer (his first shot of the game) off a Brown assist 16 seconds after Ferguson’s basket to send the Panthers to the locker room with a 25-19 lead.

Correll scored seven points and assisted on a Steven Reed layup in the first 3:05 of the second half as the Latta lead grew to 34-25, and the 6-6 senior finished with 11 of the Panthers’ 16 points in the period. Latta still led by nine (41-32) after a Correll putback at the 1:35 mark, but Tish scored the final four points in the quarter — including a steal and layup by Shields with six seconds left — to cut the lead to five heading to the fourth.

Henderson, making his first start in four games, finished with nine points, three rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist to go with his five steals, Johnson (who had started four straight games) was just 2-for-4 from the field (both key 3-pointers) and had a season-low six points, and Reed had five rebounds, a steal, an assist and a blocked shot to go with six points (on 3-of-4 shooting).

Dillon Gray led Tishomingo with 11 points.

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