Oklahoma City —
Latta hit just enough free throws (8-of-14) in the final 1:42 to waltz to the finish line. The Panthers finished 23-of-32 from the free-throw line overall, compared to a 7-of-15 showing for Haworth.
The first half saw the Lions jump out to leads of 12-5 and 15-7 in the first quarter.
Hayes then started working on his big night. After a scoreless first period, he scored the first nine points of the second quarter via bookend 3-pointers wrapped around an old-fashioned three-point play that put Latta ahead 16-15.
Latta still led 18-17 before Haworth’s Oscar Rivera put on a personal show of his own by scoring eight straight points. His 3-pointer that followed a steal by Grimes put Haworth on top 25-18. The Lions carried a 26-19 lead into the break that saw Latta hit just 6-of-16 field goals and commit eight turnovers.
“I didn’t think we played very well in the first half. They were mad at themselves, and I wasn’t too happy with them either,” Husband said. “I give Haworth all the credit. We turned the basketball over too much. We took shots that were uncharacteristic for us. We didn’t make that extra pass. And I didn’t think our defense was as intense as it needed to be. We made a lot of foolish mistakes.”
No one in Panther Nation was mad at the end. Far from it. Husband, who was going from one postgame interview to another, was just tickled to be part of a special two-year basketball journey.
“I’m so honored to be their coach at this point. When you get blessed with a special bunch of kids that believe in one another — I’ve had these guys since they were in kindergarten camps — to see them grow into the young men they are and how they play together and believe in one another ... it’s just a tremendous honor to be a part of it,” he said.