Latta players were mad at themselves during halftime late Saturday night in the Class 2A championship game.
Trailing 26-19 against No. 3 Haworth, the second-ranked Panthers’ play was not meeting coach Donnie Husband’s expectations.
That changed in the second half as Latta rallied to beat Haworth 57-50 to win its second straight championship and second in school history.
“Coming out of the locker room, Coach calmed us down,” senior Kade Hayes said. “We were fired up and made at ourselves. He said if we calm down we can win it, and that’s what we did.”
Latta (27-4) beat Haworth in the area final and also beat the Lions in last season’s championship game.
That provided a familiarity between the teams the Panthers tried to exploit in the second half.
“Everyone knows each other’s play, so you’ve got to execute,” Hayes said. “We crated second shots for ourselves, we knocked them down and we got the win.”
Latta opened the second half with a quick four-point burst and then later closed the third quarter with an 8-0 run to get within two, 33-31.
The Panthers took the lead for good on a basket from Ryan Stockton with six minutes remaining in the game. Hayes, who finished with 22 points, then scored eight of the next 10 points to build a 49-37 lead with 2:16 remaining.
“He’s always been that guy,” Husband said. “He’s not afraid of the moment and he’s not afraid to fail. He’s been that guy for us since he’s a freshman. He’s always made big shots in any big game we’ve won. We always rely heavily on him.”
Treston Tully added 13 points for the Panthers, who shot an impressive 56 percent from the field.
Haworth (28-5) cut the lead to five behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Dorian Threadgill with 14 seconds remaining, but there was not enough time to complete the comeback.
Oscar Rivera led the Lions with 18 points, but he fouled out with 1:42 remaining.
Haworth has finished runner-up the past three seasons.