Panthers show up in big way to win Regional Championship
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
The Panthers have shown throughout the season they are more than capable of being a dominant team and having a magical season. On the brink of something special, inconsistency has plagued Okemah from a much higher ranking and a better record than what appears on paper.
During Regionals, the Panthers proved they belong in the conversation to be a legitimate Class 2-A championship contender. That conversation started with an opportunity to avenge their season finale loss to Wewoka.
On Thursday, February 27th, the 15th ranked Tigers rolled back into town after having defeated the Panthers just two weeks prior inside the Tom Condict Panther Dome.
The end of the first quarter saw an evenly matched contest between the two teams with the score tied at 10. Wewoka took the psychological advantage into halftime, leading 29-23.
The third quarter saw a monumental effort from Okemah as they dropped 29 points on Wewoka and held a commanding 52-42 lead as the game went into the final quarter.
Wewoka fought back throughout the quarter and with just twenty-three seconds left in regulation, Okemah’s lead had dwindled to just two-points, but the Panthers held on to a 62-59 victory and secured their spot in the championship game.
On Saturday, February 29th, the 10th ranked Panthers squared off against 4th ranked Howe for the regional championship. Prior to this game, Okemah held a 5-2 record against 2-A schools with Wewoka being the only ranked 2-A opponent.
Howe scored first and looked to score again but what would become the trend for the night, Kaiden Bear stole the ball and ran it the length of the court for a layup, tying the game 2-2.
The first quarter was a low scoring, defensive chess match with Howe taking the lead into the second quarter, 10-8. Kaiden Bear scored 4 points during the quarter with Wacey Williams accounting for the additional 4 points.
The Panthers opened up the second quarter with a 6-0 run that included a steal and runaway layup from Kurtis Wilson. Okemah’s defense flexed all night against Howe and had several turnovers that produced points to show for it.
During the second quarter, the Panthers dropped 26 points on Howe and held the Lions to just 13 points and Okemah took a 34-23 lead into halftime. Kurtis Wilson scored 10 points, Cade Dean scored 9 points, Makhan Harjo scored 5 points and Ethan Hogens scored 2 points.
Howe chipped away at the Panthers lead, outscoring the Panthers during the third quarter 14-8, but Okemah still held a 42-37 lead as the fourth quarter got underway thanks to Cade Dean, who was responsible for all 8 of the Panthers points scored in the third.
In the final quarter, Howe had two separate 6-0 runs against the Panthers and with forty-two seconds left in regulation, Okemah’s lead over the Lions had narrowed to 56-55.
Foul trouble throughout the second half caught up to Howe in the final seconds of the game as they sent the Panthers to the foul line on three separate occasions and Okemah banked all six shots. The Panthers were able to prevent Howe from scoring in those final moments and wrapped up the championship with a 62-55 victory.
During the final quarter Kurtis Wilson scored 8 points while Wacey Williams and Kaiden Bear each had 6 points.
The Panthers have an opportunity to advance to state when they face off against 5th ranked Rejoice Christian during the area round of the playoffs that will be held at the Mvskoke Dome in Okmulgee. Tip-off for the Panthers game is set for 8 p.m. on Friday, March 6th.