By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
The basketball season for the Okemah Panthers continues as the boys prepare for the Area Tournament after winning both rounds of the Regional Tournament, held last week in Warner.
Area will be held in Checotah, beginning March 1.
The Lady Panthers’ season, however, ended after the girls suffered two tough losses in three games at Regionals, which eliminated the team from the competition.
The girls’ first loss came after a physical game against Central (Sallisaw). The Lady Panthers fought hard, but could not make up the deficit when the final seconds ticked off the clock. The final score was 35-46.
This sent the girls to the losing side of the bracket where they played Friday during the early afternoon. This game they were victorious, defeating Regent Prep by only six points, 29-23.
The win after the first loss put the Lady Panthers in play for the Regional Tournament’s Consolation Championship. They faced the only team in the running with home-court advantage, Warner, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Warner came out gunning, and the game did not end in favor of the Lady Panthers. Throughout each quarter, Warner increased its lead before the final buzzer sounded with the score at 28-41.
The Lady Panthers ended their season with a winning record of 18-9.
Before the loss in the first round of Regionals, the girls boasted a five-game winning streak. For some of the season, the team was unranked, but they ended in the state’s top 20 in Class 2A at #19, according to ossaarankings.com.
The Panthers, on the other hand, added to its ongoing winning streak, now at seven games straight after the two wins at the Regional Tournament.
Okemah is ranked #13 with a record of 20-6 going into the Area Tournament, the final phase before State.
The young team of Panthers dominated in the Regional Tournament’s round one against Warner, despite their opponent having the advantage of the home-court.
Panthers momentum was obvious from the start, but Warner battled back for it … they just couldn’t get it from the Panthers.
By halftime, Okemah had a double-digit lead, leading by 13, 40-27. When the final buzzer sounded, the Panthers had increased that lead to 30 points, winning the game 83-53.
The Regional Championship game was a bit different. The Panthers faced a solid Regent Prep team, which was ranked #8 in the state at the time of the game.
An edge-of-the-seat-type bout, the game was only won by four points and came as a result of strong performances by young players coming off the bench, like Kurtis Wilson and Jameson Ross, to name only a couple.
In the end, the score was 61-57, and the Panthers celebrated a Regional Championship and advancement to the Area Tournament.
The boys gathered for a photo after the game, passing among themselves the championship plaque.
The Area Tournament starts March 1 in Checotah. The Panthers will take on Oklahoma Union at 8 p.m.