Panthers start hot, defeat Chandler 66-42
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
The Panthers opened their season against the Chandler Lions in Okemah on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Taking the court after a successful outing by the Lady Panthers, Coach Devin Terry’s squad looked to complete the Chandler sweep and get both teams off to a 1-0 start.
While Okemah looks to benefit from having several experienced players on the roster, uncertainties remained heading into the new season as they are without starting center Wacey Williams, who remains sidelined following a football injury earlier this fall. In addition, Ethan Hodgens joined the Panthers roster for the first time this year, as he was ineligible to play last year due to OSSAA rules concerning students who move during the school year.
The Panthers laid those uncertainties to rest almost immediately as they jumped out to an early lead and held it for the duration of the game with an explosive and fast paced offensive tempo. Coach Terry commented on the stamina of his team, an element that gave the Panthers an advantage throughout the night. “We run a lot in practice because that’s the style we play. If we didn’t run a lot in practice, then we can’t play that hard for four quarters”.
When asked about the speed and aggressiveness shown throughout the game, Coach Terry responded, “that’s our M.O. and I feel like we play better that way”. Play better they did. Okemah jumped out front early with a 6-0 run. Less than five minutes remained in the first quarter before Chandler finally joined the Panthers on the scoreboard.
Newcomer Ethan Hodgens and Cade Dean led the early offensive scoring and propelled the Panthers toward a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kurtis Wilson added to the early fireworks when he stole the ball under the Chandler basket and went coast to coast for a layup.
Both Okemah and Chandler repeated their offensive production in the second quarter, doubling the score 34-20 before the first half came to a close. Cade Dean continued to lead the offensive production with Kurtis Wilson, Kaiden Bear, Ethan Hodgens and Mikey Cruz scoring as well.
Chandler made an effort to close the gap in the third quarter and outscored the Panthers 18-11. Okemah made a series of turnovers that allowed the Lions to capitalize on their mistakes and go on a 7-0 run. Ethan Hodgens helped the Panthers maintain the lead with his eight points during the quarter and Kaiden Bear knocked down a three as well and the third quarter ended with the Panthers still leading 45-38.
Early in the fourth quarter, Chandler pulled the score within five before Okemah found their rhythm and pulled away. The Panthers went on a 13-0 run that featured what may have been the highlight of the night on a bang-bang play when Kaiden Bear stole the ball from the Lions and made a no-look pass over his shoulder to Cade Dean who then went in for the layup.
Ultimately, Okemah dominated Chandler in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lions 21-4, securing their victory with a final score of 66-42.