The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

March 6, 2014

Panthers comeback falls short

YUKON, Okla. —  The Pond Creek-Hunter boys reached the Class A State Tournament on a big shot.

They didn’t hit quite enough Thursday.

The Panthers survived an offensive drought in the second and third quarters to rally in the fourth, but couldn’t hit a handful of threes that would have completed the comeback, falling 45-39 to Hollis Thursday in the Class A state quarterfinals at Yukon High School.

After reaching the state tournament on a buzzer-beating Trent Grimes three in the area losers bracket final, Pond Creek-Hunter (19-5) shot 1-for-7 from three-point range in the fourth quarter against Hollis, the last few dealing the most damage to a Panther rally that seemed headed for success in the closing moments.

Pond Creek-Hunter trailed 44-35 with less than two minutes left in the fourth when Zach Rayner rebounded his own miss and scored through a foul. Rayner missed the foul shot, but Grimes secured the rebound and hit Eric Galliton for a layup at the rim.

Grimes stole the ball as the Panthers extended their man-to-man press to Hollis’ ensuing inbounds pass and hit a wide-open Galliton in the left corner, but his three missed strong.

“I thought maybe we had a little bit of magic left in us right there, but it wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” said Pond Creek-Hunter coach Darin Jones.

“I really wished I would have made it, that’s for sure,” said Galliton, who finished with seven points. “I really wanted to knock that one down.”

Rayner fouled out on the rebound, and even as Hollis missed three of four foul shots to close the game, Pond Creek-Hunter missed all four of its shots in a desperate final minute.

“We played them a little bit better than most people thought we would, given their size,” said Rayner, who tied freshman Kade Tracy with nine points to lead the Panthers. “It’s right there. Those shots go in, we might have a different story.”

The Panthers’ need for a comeback came after combining for nine points in the second and third quarters. The game was tied at 17 at halftime, but Pond Creek-Hunter opened the third down 19-17 after a basket by T.J. Walker, who scored eight of his 10 after intermission. The Panthers pulled to within 19-18 on a Galliton free throw, but followed with four turnovers, going without a hit from the field until the final minute of the third, when Jevon Overton hit a three to pull the Panthers to within 26-21. Tyler Bess rebounded his own miss and scored to put Hollis back up 28-21 after three.

“We didn’t move the ball as well as I would have liked to start the third quarter,” Jones said. “We kind of got away from what we did (this season). You’ve got to give Hollis a lot of credit — they pressured up and forced us into a lot of bad decisions — but we just got a little impatient.”

The loss was the final game for five Pond Creek-Hunter seniors — Josh Irvin, Bryant Peck, Rayner, Grimes and Galliton — who finally made it past the area losers final after two straight losses in that game to reach their first state tourney in 2014.

“They’re so important to how the Pond Creek-Hunter basketball team has evolved,” Jones said. “They were so instrumental, and they’ll be so missed.”

Hollis (20-3), which entered the tournament ranked fifth in Class A, will play Kiowa in today’s semifinal. No. 11 Kiowa upset top-ranked Ft. Cobb-Braxton 56-46 in Thursday’s quarters.

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