Lady Panthers advance to Area with Consolation Championship
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
With the 2020 District Championship plaque siting in the trophy case, the Lady Panthers looked to capitalize on their good fortune as the Tom Condict Panther Dome served as the host for Area II during Regionals.
The Lady Panthers defended their home court to perfection during the regular season and that confidence, combined with the emotional momentum from securing the district championship, primed the Lady Panthers for an excellent opportunity to continue a deep playoff run.
However, the games still have to be played and the 17th ranked Lady Panthers first opponent during Regionals was against 12th ranked Central Sallisaw on Thursday, February 27th.
Okemah grabbed the early advantage, taking a 13-9 lead by the end of the first quarter and headed into halftime with a 21-18 lead. The end of the third quarter still saw a three-point difference in favor of the Lady Panthers as they led 30-27.
The game remained a tight contest to the very end, as both teams were tied 40-40 with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. In the final moments of the game, Central Sallisaw scored and handed the Lady Panthers their first defeat of the year inside the Tom Condict Panther Dome.
That loss put the Lady Panthers in the high stress scenario of win or go home as they faced off against Wister in the consolation bracket on Friday, February 28th.
The end of the first quarter saw Wister with the lead, 9-7 but the Lady Panthers scored 18 points during the second quarter compared to Wister’s 6 points and Okemah took a 25-15 lead into halftime.
The Lady Panthers were only able to manage three-points during the third quarter and Wister closed the gap 28-21 as the game went into the final quarter. Okemah sealed their spot in the Consolation Championship by outlasting Wister during a high scoring fourth quarter with a 41-39 victory.
Saturday, February 29th saw the final showdown inside the Tom Condict Panther Dome for the Lady Panthers as they prepared to take on Wewoka, an opponent they had already defeated in the season finale at home on February 17th.
Early in the first quarter Abby Harelson lit up the scoreboard, scoring 10 points and the Lady Panthers held a 10-0 lead. During the final three minutes of the quarter, Wewoka prevented the Lady Panthers from scoring and tightened the score 10-8.
Wewoka continued to stall the Lady Panthers offense throughout the second quarter, as a Cameron Duncan three-pointer was the only offensive gain for the first seven and a half minutes of the quarter. During that same period of time, Okemah held Wewoka to just six-points, but trailed 13-14 with thirty seconds remaining in the first half.
The Lady Panthers made those last few moments count with a basket from Abby Harelson and a buzzer-beater from Jenna Berryhill and Okemah took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Wewoka scored to open the third quarter and made the score 17-15. That was as close as Wewoka would get to the lead for the remainder of the game. Cameron Duncan responded with a three-pointer and the Lady Panthers began to build a lead from there.
Abby Harelson and Jenna Berryhill each added 2 points and Sophie Turner made her first points of the game midway through the third and finished the quarter with another basket and trip to the foul line for the extra free throw, giving her 5 points for the quarter and the Lady Panthers took a 29-19 lead into the final quarter.
Wewoka started the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run but still trailed 29-25. Foul trouble wound up thwarting any attempt at a comeback for Wewoka as the Lady Panthers were sent to the line on seven different occasions during the final three minutes of the game and capitalized on that opportunity with 13-points from free-throws.
During the final quarter Sophie Turner scored 10 points, Cameron Duncan scored 6 points and Emily Harris and Jenna Berryhill each had 2 points as the Lady Panthers scored 20 points overall and won the Consolation Championship with a 49-36 victory over Wewoka.
The Lady Panthers will travel to Okmulgee to compete in the Area round of the playoffs on Thursday, March 5th, facing a high stake, single-elimination contest inside the Mvskoke Dome. Tip-off will begin at 1:30 p.m. as the 17th ranked Lady Panther face Rejoice Christian, who has a 12-15 record on the season.