After Tully’s bucket, the Panthers (No. 2 in Class 2A) hit seven unanswered free throws to go on top 36-26 and Byng could never catch up after that.
“It’s about the only way we could score in the second half,” said Latta head coach Donnie Husband. “We found a few things in the first half that worked for us, but in the second half they made some adjustments and we got a little impatient at times and kind of got stagnant.”
Epperly, Brady Johnson, Brogan Cantrell and Cade Hayes all hit fourth-quarter free throws for the Panthers.
“I’m comfortable with any one of our guys standing up there. You just have to hit them,” Husband said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s superstitious about it. When you go to the line, it’s important. If you don’t hit them, I’m going to say something about it. You have to make them. We have kids that are good shooters. Just like everybody else, we put the time in and they put the time in to do it.”
The Panthers hit just 3-of-11 field goals over the final two quarters. Husband said his defense bailed the offense out.
“Our defense kept us alive. It was our backbone all night,” he said. “We did a great job of guarding them. When you keep doing that, your offense can eventually catch up a little bit. We’ve been there before and kind of found a way out of it.”
Latta (17-3) buried the Pirates early, starting the game with an impressive 17-4 run capped by a 3-pointer from Carter Kessinger. Byng was ice cold during the first 11-plus minutes of the game, hitting just one of its first 11 field goals.
The Pirates would outscore Latta 22-10 to get within a single point before the visitors finally put the game away from the free throw line.
Epperly and Tully scored nine points each to pace the Latta offense while Bhyng got nine points from Reid Wall and Hunter Capps followed with eight.
Weather permitting, Byng is scheduled to play at Lindsay tonight while Latta is at home against local rival Roff.