LATTA — Latta senior Hayden Hoppe hit four gigantic free throws to end the game and help the Panthers turn back Sulphur 43-41 in a boys basketball thriller Saturday night inside the Latta Panther Fieldhouse.
The Panthers improved to 11-14 on the year and will host Class 3A No. 14 Washington tonight. The Warriors defeated Latta 61-40 in a matchup last December.
Meanwhile, Sulphur dropped to 10-11 and is in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
“It was a nice win. At this time of the year, getting ready for the playoffs, that’s a big confidence booster for our guys,” said Latta head coach Paxton Kilby.
The game was tight throughout, with seven lead changes and three ties in the second half alone.
The Panthers were clinging to a 37-35 lead heading into the exciting fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs opened the period with a free throw from Price Daube and four straight points from shifty point guard Tavius McDonald — two from the stripe and a fast-break bucket that put Sulphur on top 40-37 with 3:36 left in the game.
Rylan Schlup scored on a tough move inside with just over three minutes left before Cole Hammon hit another free shot for Sulphur to put the Bulldogs ahead 41-39, with 2:44 remaining.
After a time out, Latta milked well over a minute off the clock before Hayden Hoppe drove to the basket and was fouled. He hit two free throws with 1:12 remaining to tie the score at 41-41.
On Sulphur’s next possession, it looked like Cole Johnson was open on a back-door cut to the basket, but he bobbled the ball, resulting in a steal by Latta’s Hyatt Hoppe with 23.3 seconds left.
Again, Hayden Hoppe took off down the lane and was again fouled on a shot attempt. He sank two more free throws to give Latta its two-point edge.
“That was huge. He tied it up and then put us over the top for the win,” Kilby said of Hoppe’s clutch free-throw shooting.
Johnson’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer for Sulphur was well off the mark.
Hyatt Hoppe hit three 3-point baskets and finished with 11 points to lead a balanced LHS offense. Ethan Elliott scored nine points for the Panthers, while Hayden Hoppe and Schlup contributed eight points each.
Bryce Ireland scored five points for the hosts. Senior Randis Gray had just two points, but grabbed a team-best seven rebounds and had three steals.
McDonald led all scorers with 15 points for Sulphur, while Daube also reached double figures with 10 points to go with seven rebounds.