DALE—The Dale Pirates came up just short in their upset bid against the Class 2A second-ranked Latta Panthers Friday night, with a 34-33 setback.
The two teams went toe to toe for 32 minutes of intense defense and limited possessions due to decreased offensive tempo.
Latta jumped to an early 7-0 lead when Trent Smith hit a jumper with 3:23 remaining in the first quarter. Dale finally registered a score at the 2:42 mark on a hoop and one Logan Woodruff. That three-point play cut the deficit to 7-3 and the Panthers took a 10-5 lead into the second quarter.
The Pirates began to slowly chip away at Latta in the second frame. Brady Johnson led the way with six second quarter points bringing the Pirates within two, 17-15, at the half.
Dale, on its' first possession of the second half, took the air out of the ball for a minute and a half before Johnson hit a trey from the top of the key to give Dale their first and only lead of the game. The Panthers answered back with an Elijah Factor lay up with 4:44 left in the third. This gave Latta the lead for keeps.
Dale was within striking distance at 24-20 heading into the final quarter, but a major dry spell on offense spelled their doom. The Pirates went 6:57 without a fourth quarter score, but never quit.
The game's leading scorer, Randis Gray, hit two free throws with 1:10, giving the Panthers a 31-20 lead, Gray scored 14 points in the contest.
That's when Dale's offense came back to life.
Dallen Forsythe hit two free throws with 1:03 remaining to cut the lead to 31-22, but Latta's Factor hit a free throw to get the lead back to ten, 32-22 with :53 left. The Pirates then hit back-to-back treys, the first by Johnson with :46 remaining and the second after a Latta turnover by Jono Jhnson with :38 ticks on the clock. The score was 32-28
Latta's Adam Jordan converted two free throws to make it 34-28 with 11 seconds before Forsythe hit a lay-up to cut it to 34-30 with :05 showing. Forsythe then stole the inbounds pass and with a Latta defender draped over him hit a trey at the buzzer to end all scoring at 34-33, Latta.
Johnson led Dale with a dozen points and Forsythe finished with 11.
Dale will host Preston on Tuesday night.