LATTA, OK -- The champs are back and believe it or not they're actually not the favorites heading into this year's 2A state tourney.
"I kind of like it, it kind of takes a little pressure off of you. I mean, because like you said the target is almost not on our back, it's more on Millwood's because they won it in 3A last year and everybody is kind of gunning after them maybe a little more than focusing on us," senior Brady Johnson said.
Still being the defending champs there's been a giant yellow and black target all season long on the Panthers' backs.
But now with only eight teams left they can shake it off and focus on three more games.
"I don't think that's an issue at all, everybody wants to win it. So, no I don't think that's that big of a deal at this point in the season, but obviously if you beat the defending champ then you've accomplished something," head coach Donnie Husband said.
"We can't get caught up in everything that comes with state there's a lot of emotions and just a lot of fans yelling and everything. We just got to play our own game and keep doing what we've been doing these past games in the playoffs," Johnson added.
They've responded well - winning 24 of their 28 games this season and clinging to a No. 2 ranking in the class.
A lot of credit has to go to last season's Oklahoma coach of the year Donnie Husband, who knows exactly what it will take to get the Panthers a rare back-to-back.
"You don't look ahead, you don't think about what you might do, you don't think about what somebody else thinks about you, you just worry about yourself and your own team and how you're playing possession by possession and that's what you try to focus on, anything else gets too overwhelming," he concluded.
They'll tip against Pawnee at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Oklahoma City University.