Class 2A boys: Latta defeats Christian Heritage to win state title
As a freshman three years ago, Latta senior Dustin West raced off the bench and joined the dogpile on the State Fair Arena floor when the Panthers celebrated their last state championship.
This time around, the dogpile was even more joyous for West and the two other Latta senior starters – Isaiah Ott and Kele Parnacher – as the Panthers defeated Christian Heritage, 48-36, in the Class 2A boys state title game Saturday.
“It was our sweat and out tears that went into it this time,” West said. “I have been with this group of guys since the first grade and it's been one of our dreams. It's just an amazing feeling.”
West and the other seniors were on the practice squad three years ago when Latta won its second straight title in 2014. Latta head coach Matt Bryant was an assistant coach on those title teams and said the 2017 Panthers were very similar.
“We just had a really balanced team, a different guy stepping up each night,” Bryant said of the previous championship squads. “I think it was the same way this year.”
On Saturday, it was the 6-2 West and 6-3 junior forward Adam Jordan who stepped up. West scored a game-high 16 points while Jordan added 13 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
“I thought Dustin was really, really aggressive. He is our glue guy,” Bryant said. “He is always guarding the best player on the other team. He did a great job doing that.
“Adam, he is really good on the boards and I thought he finished some shots really well (Saturday).”
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None were more important than Jordan's consecutive 3-point plays the traditional way in the third quarter. Christian Heritage opened the second half with two straight buckets to take its only lead of the game at 23-22.
But Latta quickly seized the momentum, going on a 9-0 run with Jordan scoring the final six points of that stretch.
“We were a little out of sync coming out of the half then we dropped it down to him for those two 3-point plays and those were huge,” Bryant said.
The Panthers never trailed again in the game.
“He's an animal,” West said of Jordan. “He stepped up for us in the best time possible.”
West and Jordan scored 15 of Latta's 17 third-quarter points and defense and rebounding carried the Panthers in the fourth quarter. Christian Heritage only scored four points in both the first and fourth quarters of the game.
“Latta was the best defensive team we saw in the playoffs,” Christian Heritage coach Heath Kufahl said. “They were very physical and it gave us problems.”
Christian Heritage shot just 11 of 40 in the game for 27.5 percent. The Panthers also out-rebounded the Crusaders 31-19.
Both teams had improbable runs to the title game. No. 14 Christian Heritage (19-13) upset two-time defending champion Wewoka and No. 2 Wright City in the state tournament.
No. 5 Latta (28-5) knocked off No. 3 Merritt and No. 4 Dale in the quarterfinal and semifinal.
“You just have to grind (in the state tournament),” Bryant said. “All three days you have to grind out possessions and you just really have to battle.”