Win or lose, the Latta Panthers pride themselves in being the most physical team on the floor night in and night out.

But in Tuesday's 59-56 loss to Tishomingo, the Panthers found out what happens when a physical basketball team meets a basketball team made up of football players.

The Indians — ranked No. 13 in Class 3A — outhustled and outmuscled the taller Panthers for the final three quarters, then survived a frenzied Latta rally in the final minute that finally ended when Trevan Jimboy's desperation 3-pointer bounced off the backboard at the buzzer.

"They were more physical than we were," Latta coach Donnie Husband admitted after seeing his club — ranked No. 9 in Class 2A — give up 19 offensive boards en route to being outrebounded, 39-24.  "They just whipped us on the boards.

"It was nice that we could play with a sense of urgency and make a run at the end, but that game was decided around the basket."

Led by Jack Coppedge, Will Alexander, Johnny Seals, Nevada Cole and Calvin Sterling (all members of Tishomingo's state-ranked football team this fall), the Indians (4-2) repeatedly got second shots and loose balls leading to two, three and four-shot possessions.  Coppedge led the way with 20 points and 10 boards, with three of his seven field goals coming after offensive rebounds, and the Indians as a team scored 21 points as the result of multiple-shot opportunities on their end of the floor.

Latta's problems were compounded by foul trouble for 6-6 center Isaac Vandever, who picked up his third personal late in the second period and his fourth just seconds into the second half and was scoreless in the second and third quarters.  He finished with a season-low eight points and four rebounds, and the Indians took advantage of his "personal" problems to turn a 17-7 deficit after one quarter into a 46-41 lead heading to the fourth.

Remarkably, the Panthers (7-3) managed to hang around, largely because of the scoring of Jimboy, who drained six 3-pointers in 11 attempts and finished with a game-high 23 points — including six in the span of 19 seconds late in the fourth quarter.

Tish led, 59-50, after Justin Cellum sank a pair of free throws (his only points of the night) with 40.7 seconds remaining, but Jimboy hit a trey 10 seconds later, then — after Alexander missed the front end of a one-and-one with 13.2 seconds to play — Latta's junior point guard hit another long 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left.

Kory Hayes — who didn't score in the game but had three rebounds and a game-high six assists — got a steal on Tishomingo's long inbounds pass and shoveled the ball up the right sideline to Jimboy, who launched a desperation 30-footer that caromed off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.

Latta sprinted to its early 10-point lead courtesy of seven points by Kolbie Brown, six by Jimboy (on a pair of 3-pointers) and four by Vandever in the opening period, but the Indians made adjustments between quarters and, although Brown and Jimboy combined for all 14 of Latta's points in the second period, the rest of the Panthers were a combined 0-for-5 in the quarter.  Tish, meanwhile, got seven points from Coppedge and six from Alexander in the second period, outrebounded the Panthers, 13-6 and cut the lead to 28-27 on Seals' putback of a Cole miss just 50 seconds before halftime. 

The Indians settled for a 31-27 deficit at intermission when Brown hit a 3-pointer (his final field goal of the game) with 18 seconds left.

"When they locked down on the perimeter and Isaac got in foul trouble, the game changed," Husband said.  "We made some shots early, but they took that away and made us try something else.  And something else didn't work."

Tishomingo scored the first six points of the second half — with all three baskets the result of offensive rebounds — to take a 33-31 lead on Sterling's second straight putback of a missed shot just 1:05 into the third quarter, and Latta tied the game for the final time at 37-all on Chris Luttrell's second basket of the quarter at the 4:34 mark. 

But Luttrell, who was fouled on the bucket, failed to convert the 3-point play and Latta's final opportunity in the game to take the lead, and the Indians went on a 13-4 run to grab command.

Cole kick-started the rally when he won a scramble for a loose ball and drained a 12-foot jumper with 2:45 left in the quarter, and the lead grew to seven at 46-39 when Coppedge rebounded Alexander's missed 3-pointer and passed back Alexander, who made good on his second opportunity from beyond the arc with 24 seconds remaining.  Jay Husband hit a short jumper 13 seconds later to cut the margin to 46-41 after three quarters, but the Panthers couldn't get closer until Jimboy hit his two late treys.

Brown finished with 12 points in the loss but went 0-for-5 from the field in the second half against the Indians' tough man-to-man defense.  Husband scored all six of his points in the final two periods, but with Vandever (who finished with six blocks despite sitting out almost half the game) limited by foul problems, the Panthers simply couldn't match the Indians inside.  

Sterling pulled down seven rebounds and scored all six of his points in the third quarter, Seals had six boards to go with his six points, and Cole came off the bench to score seven points in the first three quarters.          


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