The grit and determination of the Latta Lady Panthers, led by Emma Epperly and Shelby Garrett, wasn’t enough to offset the Class 4A top-ranked Harrah Lady Panthers Thursday night in the first round of the 2017 Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.
Three Harrah players reached double figures, paced by Erika Ankney’s 21 points, as the Lady Panthers held off 2A 14th-ranked Latta 59-53 on Wayne Cobb Court inside East Central University’s Kerr Activities Center.
Harrah stayed unbeaten at 8-0 on the year, while Latta evened its record at 4-4.
“We took a really big step forward. We played against a really good team and did some things really well,” said Latta head coach Bruce Plunk. “We drew a line in the sand and talked about that’s who we are. Now we need to move forward from there and don’t take a step back. I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. We just need to keep moving forward.”
Epperly was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end for Latta. She connected on 10-of-12 shots from the floor and converted all seven of her free throws in pouring in a game-high 27 points. Garrett was 4-of-5 from 3-point range in finishing with 12 points, as Latta shot 62.5 percent from the field overall and 66.7 from 3-point territory.
Kendra Hisaw contributed nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 free shots to go with a team-leading four assists. She also had two steals.
“We got great games out of a lot of people. Kendra and Shelby had good games, but Emma was really good tonight,” Plunk said.
Latta’s downfall was the result of 20 turnovers on the night.
Meanwhile, Harrah hit 49 percent of its field-goal tries and had 10 fewer turnovers. Harrah also racked up 20 assists, with Katie King totaling eight and Ankney collecting six.
Ankney was the catalyst for Harrah’s success on both ends of the floor as she converted 9-of-13 field-goal attempts, recorded a game-high four steals and collected five rebounds. She will play NCAA Division I basketball at Oral Roberts University next season.
Joining Ankney in double figures for Harrah were Ali Brzozowski with 18 and Kiara Lovings with 13. Brzozowski was 8-of-13 from the floor, nailed 2-of-4 free three shots and blocked three Latta shot attempts before fouling out late. Brzozowski will join her sister Gracie at Benedictine College in Kansas next year.
Harrah’s pressure proved to be critical as the team compiled 11 steals, led by three each from Lovings and Katie King.
The game was tied at 10-10 after a 3-pointer by Garrett midway through the first period. But Harrah’s press began to rattle the Lady Panthers and led to an 11-0 surge. After Ankey’s triple at the 1:50 mark, Harrah had forged a 21-10 advantage.
“We were a little tight. We broke that press twice and then missed two bumps,” Plunk said.
Harrah led by as much as 13 points, 32-19, in the second quarter, but Latta made it interesting by pulling within five, 34-29, at halftime. A 10-2 run in the final 4:19 of the second quarter brought Latta into contention.
During that span, Epperly scored eight of those points off a layup and a close-range shot, along with four free throws and Hailey Baber’s basket, shortly before the buzzer, trimmed the deficit to five by intermission.
Latta maintained its striking range in the third quarter, getting as close as 41-39 off a Hisaw shot in the paint with 4:16 left.
But Harrah pushed its advantage to six by the end of the third, 50-44.