By Joshua Allen
The Okemah basketball teams hit the road Tuesday for Wewoka where the two teams saw a split outcome on the night – a win for the Lady Panthers and a tough loss for the Panthers.
Wewoka, as the home-team, seemed almost surprised within the first few ticks of the game clock as the Lady Panthers took control of their host’s court immediately, making a quick lead and maintaining it.
The Okemah girls outscored Wewoka 15-9 in the first quarter, establishing a charge towards victory — should the hosts not stop them — early.
They then scored 15 more points in the second quarter to increase that lead to 30-16 by halftime, taking to the locker rooms up by a 14-point deficit and seemingly in control of the game, the ball and the clock.
The third quarter, however, seemed to show a shift in pace as Wewoka held the Lady Panthers to only five points of team offense, while the home team put up 10.
This minor lapse in the flow of things for the Lady Panthers only allowed Wewoka to make up five points of the 14-point deficit, and Wewoka would have to scramble to make up the remaining deficit in the fourth.
But … now that deficit was back to a single digit — Wewoka down by nine, seemingly with a bit of strength and momentum that could lead to a comeback — with only one quarter remaining.
Be the case as it may, that single-digit deficit only increased as the Lady Panthers dominated the last period, putting up their best numbers of the night.
After the game, Lady Panther Head Coach Will Seymour gave credit to Wewoka, noting they were shorthanded and playing without some key players.
“They had two of their starters, who were injured and out,” Seymour said. “It was just one of those games … we won by 15, but, you know, we were just happy to get out with a win.”
As was clearly displayed on the court, the Lady Panthers’ individual performances combined for a team set on victory.
They outscored their host 16-10 in the fourth, leading to a final score of 51-36 and a 15-point Lady Panther-win.
“The kind of environment the girls were in is sometimes tough to play in,” the coach explained. “Plus, Wewoka is a pretty good, athletic team.
“They match up size-wise with us well, and a lot of times things were not really dropping for us
“I thought they just battled hard, and we came out with a win.”
When Friday’s game came around, the squad of Lady Panthers loaded their bus and headed to Bethel.
Seymour knew, he said, prior to the game that it was going to be a challenge if the Lady Panthers were going to beat the Wildcats on their home court.
As true as that may be, beat them they did. After the game, Coach Seymour broke down his thoughts on the Lady Panther performance Friday, telling the News Leader, he was just happy to get another win.
Coming into this game, I knew that Bethel has the size advantage,” Seymour said. “They are really, really big. They’ve got some physical, aggressive girls that post up hard, and I knew that was going to be the key to winning the game is being able to stop their bigs inside.”
The game had the crowd excited and cheering the teams on as the they battled for points, battled to stop points and battled for victory, the coach explained.
“I thought the girls, though outsized, battled, battled, battled all game long,” he said. “They never backed down.”
Though the Lady Panthers did end up winning the game, it wasn’t easy, and their host had them up against a wall at times but themselves against the wall at other times.
The Lady Panthers, however, stayed aggressive, relentless and determined, and that seemed to be the deciding factor by the time the final buzzer sounded. The Okemah girls had managed to take a four-point lead with seconds on the clock, and they held on to it.
The final score came out to 42-38. The win put the Lady Panthers at 5-2 on the season and moved them up in OSSAA rankings.
Seymour boiled it down to a final thought.
“It was back-and-forth the whole game, but we ended up on the winning side,” he concluded.
The girls traveled to Prague — #7 in Class 3A, according to OSSAArankings.com — Tuesday, December 18 and will head to Broken Bow — #18 in Class 4A — Friday, December 21.
Friday’s game will be the last before the Christmas break. They return to the court on January 4 to face-off against 3A Okmulgee at home.