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Panthers finish third in Okemah Invitational Tournament

Panthers finish third in Okemah Invitational Tournament
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
The Panthers entered the Okemah Invitational Tournament with expectations to win it all, but fell just short before rebounding with a third place effort.
The first round of the tournament saw the Panthers take on Wetumka. Okemah torched the Chieftains early in the first quarter, streaking out to a 12-0 lead. That pace barely let up during the entirety of the game as the Panthers drastically outscored Wetumka each quarter.
The Chieftains only managed two points the second quarter whereas the Panthers dropped another 17, finishing the first half 34-9.
Okemah returned in the second half and continued with their fast paced offense and quick transitions across the court. By the end of the third quarter, a visibly winded Wetumka trailed the Panthers 52-17.
The fourth quarter was a matter of letting the clock run down and maintaining a sizable lead. With a final score of 62-33, Okemah was primed for the second round.
A significant note from game one that reflected in the outcome of game two for the Panthers was the absence of Wacey Williams and Makhan Harjo from the starting lineup. Williams is due to return next week from an injury earlier this fall and Harjo was sidelined due to an illness,
The Panthers were able to rally against Wetumka thanks to the offensive output from Ethan Hodgens, Cade Dean, Kaiden Bear and Kurtis Wilson, but the lack of depth caught up with them in the second round against Beggs.
Okemah was forced to rotate among six players all night while Beggs was able to rely on a full squad and keep fresher legs in the game.  In spite of that, the Panthers kept it close, trailing 14-16 as the first quarter came to a close.
The Panthers took the lead a few times throughout the game and went into halftime with a one-point lead, 24-23. During the second half, the benefit of a deeper depth chart began to show and Beggs slowly started to pull away.
Trailing 38-43 as the fourth quarter got underway, three straight turnovers led to a six-point swing for Beggs and the Panthers weren’t able to close that gap for the rest of the game, ultimately losing 58-50.
Beggs would continue on to face Wewoka in the championship game that came to a thrilling overtime showdown with Wewoka walking away as tournament champions. Okemah looked to salvage their tournament with a win in the final round against Marlow.
This outing looked a lot like the game against Wetumka as Okemah sailed to an early lead and never looked back.
Three-pointers were the theme of the day as the first quarter’s points were all from behind the three-point line. Cade Dean, Kurtis Wilson and Ethan Hodges were a triple threat that Marlow never figured out how to contain.
Leading 18-6 as the second quarter began, Mikey Cruz and Aaron Little joined their names to the three-point barrage hit-lis and Okemah doubled their score, 37-23 with Kurtis Wilson and Cade Dean continuing to pour it on as well.
As the second half got underway, Cade Dean picked up where he left off in the second quarter, draining four more three-pointers by the end of the third. The Panthers defense shut down Marlow in the third quarter and their lead stretched to 59-36.
Marlow gave the fourth quarter a sixteen point effort but the damage had been done and Cade Dean sunk a few more three-pointers for good measure as the Panthers celebrated with a 70-53 victory and a third place finish in the tournament.

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