Latta took Pawnee’s best shot, but in the end the second-ranked Panthers held on for a 54-49 win on Thursday in the first round of Class 2A boys basketball state tournament on the campus of Oklahoma City University.
“We really played well at times, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit at the end with some turnovers,” said Latta coach Donnie Husband. “It’s always a difficult situation playing with a lead at the end of a game, but in the end we usually find a way to hit a free throw or do something else we need to do to hold on.”
The Panthers led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Pawnee climbed within two at 51-19 in the final minute. Latta’s Kade Hayes knocked in a pair of clutch free throw on the Panther’s next possession to clinch the victory.
Hayes led three Latta double-digit scorers with 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Treston Tully chipped in 13 points, while Brady Johnson tallied 12 points for the Panthers.
Husband was impressed with the fight of sixth-ranked Black Bears, who got a game-high 22 points from Gideon Gardner in a losing cause.
“They have a very good young basketball team and I thought it was important that our kids were tough and scrappy,” Husband said of Pawnee. “We were really impressed with them on film and know how tough coach Paige’s teams are.
“We just hung in there and kept fighting, and we didn’t really give them a lot of second chances until there at the end. We pride ourselves on being a good defensive team and we were able to do some good things.”