By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
Hard fought performances yielded third place finishes for the Panther and Lady Panther basketball teams after both squads matched wins and losses at this year’s annual 66 Conference Tournament, winning in the first round, taking losses in the second and finishing on top in the final round.
The Lady Panthers faced off against Seminole in first round action Tuesday, January 21. The girls maintained a dominance throughout the game, leading to a 21-point win with the final score 58-37.
That win took the girls to the second round game, held Friday, January 25, at which point the tournament reach a level of tension only reserved for extra quarters.
As it has been reported many times in this publication, the Lady Panthers are known to get into some close matchups. The second-round game against Chandler was close, and the fourth quarter buzzer sounded with the score tied.
Neither team scored more than 30 points in the low-scoring, defensive and pressure-filled game. In the end, Chandler was victorious by a mere three points, sending the Lady Panthers to the losers bracket with a score of 23-26.
Refusing to let the lose destroy completely their tournament play, the Lady Panthers rallied Saturday (Jan. 26) to beat MCloud 52-41 and secure a third-place finish.
In a similar fashion, literally matching brackets with the girls (even a very close game in round two), save for the difference in teams, the Panthers worked for a first-round win over Stroud, dominating their opponent with a 66-29 victory.
That took the boys to Friday’s second round where they ran into a fierce Prague team. Earlier in the season, the Panthers defeated the same Prague team 62-36.
This game against Prague didn’t have that same zeal for the Panthers … which ended up turning into a loss, even if barely. Prague won by only two points, sending Okemah to the other side of the 66 Conference Tournament bracket by a score of 43-45.
Finally, as with the girls, the Panther sought a bit of redemption and found it against MCloud in final round. The boys were up for third place, which they earned with a crushing 34-point victory over their opponent.
The Okemah High School basketball teams hosted Vanoss Tuesday, January 29. With the results not available by press time that Tuesday, the Panthers went into the game with a 13-5 record, ranked #13 in Class 2A, according to OSSAArankings.com. Their opponent, Vanoss High School, however, went into the game ranked #1 in the same class.
Vanoss’ girls team is ranked up toward the top, as well. They went into Tuesday’s game against the Lady Panthers ranked #3 in Class 2A, while the Lady Panthers only barely in the state’s top 20 Class 2A teams, ranking at #19 with a 12-5 record prior to Tuesday’s contest.
Friday, February 2, the Okemah squads hit the road for a short haul to Seminole to take on the bigger Class 4A school.
Check www.OkemahNewsLeader.com for reports from those games, or find the Okemah News Leader on Facebook.