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January 23, 2014

Playoff-like atmosphere greets crowd

Latta — Things probably couldn’t have gone much better for the folks at Latta Tuesday night.

Close to, if not over, 2,000 fans packed into the brand new $5 million Latta Panthers Fieldhouse to watch the home town Panthers take on local rival Byng.

When Byng came to town in the now old Latta gym, many fans simply stayed home. There was no use trying to squeeze into that place. Sardines had more room.

Problem solved. The new Latta gym can comfortably hold 1,700 without anyone feeling cramped. Those that didn’t mind standing were lined up all around the back of the seats from one side to the other. And as many as would fit were watching from the windows in the lobby area looking down on the gym floor.

Nearly everyone I talked to agreed that it seemed like they were watching a playoff game. Two great battles on the court. Great fan support. Cool scoreboard song videos during time outs. Fun times in the Latta Panther Fieldhouse. Fantastic atmosphere.

“(Byng boys coach) Trent (Miller) and I were talking before the game, and it was like the regional or area finals. There was tremendous fan support from both groups. I love competing against Trent. His kids are so well-coached. It was fun, there was no doubt about it,” said Latta head coach Donnie Husband.

Latta girls coach David Tinkler agreed.

“It was great. That’s a typical playoff atmosphere,” he said. “We had bodies hanging off the walls and the rafters and everything else. I thought my kids handled it pretty well.”

It was also pink-out night. Lotsa pink in the stands. Raised thousands of dollars to go toward cancer research.

A number of Latta alums in the stands. Even former coach Alton Wood and some of his former players made an appearance.

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