The Latta Panthers’ run to a second straight Class 2A boys basketball state championship came up a little short in the title game in March, but it didn’t keep head coach Matt Bryant from securing his second consecutive Ada News Boys Area Coach of the Year award.
In just completing his fourth season as Latta head coach, Bryant has guided all of his teams as far as the area tournament, with the last two reaching the state championship game.
“Like last year, this is a huge honor. I think we have a lot of really successful coaches in the area,” Bryant said. “I feel like we are blessed to have the guys we have, who have bought into what we’re doing. With the guys we have, it makes you look good.”
Because of that, Bryant attributes the award to everyone involved in the program, from his players to assistant coach Trent Storts to everyone who supports the program.
“Being named area coach of the year is not an individual honor. A lot of people have something to do with it,” said Bryant. “There’s a lot of people behind it, including Trent Storts, my assistant, our administration and support people and all the parents who let their kids be a part of this, especially the players that have bought into the system. Of course, my family, which is without me a lot during the season, is part of this.”
The Panthers, who completed the regular season with a No. 2 ranking, went 26-6 in 2017-18 and registered six straight playoff victories — in districts, regionals, area and state. The two victories at state came over Crossings Christian, 58-56 in overtime, in the first round and Hooker, 42-41, in the semifinals before falling to top-ranked Wright City, 62-48, in the finals.
Two of Bryant’s senior players received postseason honors as Trent Smith was named to the Oklahoma Coaches Association Small East Team. Smith, and Latta teammate Adam Jordan, were also chosen as Class 2A Small East All-Stars by Class. Smith averaged 20 points per game in 2017-18, while Jordan sported an 11.0 scoring average.
In 2016-17, Bryant’s Panthers rolled to a 28-5 record and a state title as Smith was named the Class 2A State Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Since being a part of the Latta program, Bryant has served as a coach of three state Champions. He was an assistant under Donnie Husband when the Panthers won back-to-back state crowns in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
The two Latta coaches have won All-Area Boys Coach of the Year five of the past seven seasons.
Other coaches who received consideration for the award were Ada head coach Garland Parks, who, in his first year with the Cougars, took his team to the Class 4A State Tournament; Wes Mooreland of Stonewall, who guided the unranked Longhorns to the Class A Area Tournament; Allen head coach Greg Mills, who helped the Mustangs to a 17-9 record and a Class 2A Regional appearance; and Tupelo’s Clay Weller, who saw his Tigers advance to the Class B Area Tournament.