By CRAIG HALL
PANAMA—Grant Severe and his Pocola teammates ran circles around Gore while Panama’s girls held on at the end to win Class 2A district tournament championships here Saturday night.
In a matchup of a pair of 2A boys teams with the best records in this area, Pocola started slow but finished fast in a 63-42 win over Gore and Panama’s girls overcame a serious run by Pocola to capture a 58-49 victory.
Despite having an 18-4 record during the regular season, the Indians were paired in the district tournament with Gore, which was 19-4 coming into the tournament.
The OSSAA typically tries to separate teams with excellent records, but Pocola was forced to play an elimination game Friday against Panama and then come back a night later to play the Pirates.
Gore featured the kind of height which has caused Pocola problems at times during the season. The Indians started slow and Gore built a 14-9 advantage after a first quarter with the Pirates dominating the boards.
But after the slow start, it was all Pocola. The Indians’ quickness started causing problems and they rallied to hold a one-point advantage at halftime.
After Pocola picked up the pressure, Gore was never the same team. The Pirates had trouble getting an open look and Pocola stepped up on the boards.
And Severe, one of only two seniors for Pocola, put on a show the second half. He scored six points in a third quarter which the Indians dominated in taking a 38-28 lead as Tanner Francis hit a pair of 3-point baskets.
Severe made several steals in the final quarter and Gore had no hope of stopping him as he drove the lane for layups or dished off to open teammates for layups. His final basket of the night was a highlight. Severe drove, spun around between several Gore defenders and made a layup which was as good of a play as you will see in a high school game.
With Pocola’s defense causing Gore problems, the Pirates abandoned the team game and tried to play one-on-one, which didn’t work. The Indians came up with all the loose balls and frequently got layups on the other end as Gore just could not match Pocola’s speed.
Severe finished with 21 points, with 16 coming in the second half and 10 in the fourth quarter. Francis also had a big second half for the Indians, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the final two periods and Kyle Highley added 10 for the Indians, now 20-4 after winning only four games last year.
Gore, which was ranked 12th coming into the game, drops to 19-5. Garrett Lehnick led the Pirates with 22 points.
Pocola will face Wister in a regional tournament game Thursday at 8 p.m. at Howe. Gore takes on Howe Thursday at 3 p.m., also at Howe.
Panama’s girls appeared ready to coast to a district championship as the LadyBacks got Pocola in early foul trouble and enjoyed a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter after a 9-0 run with Stephanie Barcheers scoring seven of the nine points.
Pocola’s girls went on a 14-0 run late in the quarter to pull within two points before Panama’s Lauren Smith scored late to give her team a 42-38 lead after three quarter.
Even after Taylor Farley fouled out early in the fourth, Pocola kept forcing turnovers and the Lady Indians closed the gap to one after a basket by Breanna Vaughn and a free throw by Jerrica Robison with 4:11 left.
Smith stepped up big for the Lady Backs, putting them back up by four with a free throw and a layup with 2:25 left.
Stummer Stockton got a steal and drove the length of the court for a layup and then was perfect on a pair of free throws and Panama’s lead was eight with less than two minutes remaining.
The Lady Backs outscored Pocola down the stretch, 12-4, to get the win and capture the district championship.
Barcheers finished with 25 points to lead Panama while Smith added 11. Vaughn had 18 for Pocola and freshman Madison Hudkins added 10.
Panama will take on Howe for the third time this year in a regional tournament game Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Howe while Pocola will face Wister at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, also at Howe.