No. 9 Rock Creek leaves Latta behind

Latta boys coach Paxton Kilby addresses his team during a time out against Rock Creek Thursday afternoon at the Kingston New Years Classic.

KINGSTON — The Latta High School boys basketball team overcame one early deficit against Rock Creek Thursday afternoon during the first round of the Kingston New Years Classic.

The Panthers couldn’t climb out of their second big hole.

The hot-shooting Mustangs broke open a close game with a 24-2 run that ended the second quarter, stretched into the third and ran away from Latta 68-37.

Rock Creek, ranked No. 9 in Class 2A, improved to 13-2 on the year, while Latta dropped to 4-8.

“They’re a really fast-paced team and can really go. Part of our game plan was to have good offensive possession and then we could get back on defense,” said Latta head coach Paxton Kilby. “We also wanted to get some things around the rim because we know they like to jump and block shots. We settled for too many long shots and gave up long rebounds which just jump starts their fast break.”

The Panthers fell behind 15-4 early but stormed back with an 11-2 surge. That run started when Bryce Ireland was fouled on a 3-point shot and made all three free throws to trim the Rock Creek lead to 15-7 at the end of the first period.

Ryan Schlup buried a 3-pointer early in the second quarter, Hayden Hoppe completed an old-fashioned three-point play after a nice drive to the basket and Randis Gray followed with a steal and layup that got Latta with 17-15 at the 5:40 mark of the second frame.

Rock Creek followed with its huge 24-point spurt that put the Mustangs on top 41-17 after a steal and layup quick guard Darian James. The Panthers never recovered.

“We kind of lost ourselves (in the second quarter) and the next thing you know they’re on a big run and we’re kind of hanging our heads,” Kilby said.

Former Latta player Elijah Factor faced the Panthers for the first time since his departure. The Rock Creek senior hit two long 3-pointers during the Mustangs’ pivotal run. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and four blocked shots in his Rock Creek debut.

Near the end of the RC run, Factor was whistled for a technical foul for clapping in the face of a Latta player.

“I think it was weird. It’s kind of an odd situation,” Kilby said of his team facing their former colleague. “But I think our kids handled themselves really well and represented Latta well in a situation where it could have been really easy not to.”

Rock Creek shot 29-of-49 (59.2 percent) from the field — and sank eight 3-pointers — compared to a 13-of-46 (28.3 percent) showing for Latta. The Panthers also committed 21 turnovers.

Hayden Hoppe paced Latta with eight points, while Bryce Ireland added seven off the bench.

Two other players joined Factor in double digits for Rock Creek. James scored 15 points and had four steals, while Karson Dry contributed 11. Sammy Cahill scored nine points off the bench for the Mustangs.

The Panthers will meet Tishomingo in consolation play at 3 p.m. today, while Rock Creek advances to a 5:40 p.m. semifinal contest against Class 2A No. 1 Dale.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.