Am-Po comes together before the start of Friday's semifinal game in Oklahoma City.

The Amber-Pocasset Lady Panthers went on a run.

After missing out on the Class 2A state tournament in 2022, Am-Po secured its third state spot in four seasons in 2023 and extended its run for an extra game in the state tournament before seeing a meaningful season come to an end. The second-ranked Lady Panthers earned the top seed in the state tournament and advanced to the semifinals before seeing the season end at Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City.

Am-Po defeated No. 18 Hartshorne 54-32 in the state quarterfinals before falling to No. 1 Dale in Friday’s 52-47 semifinal. Dale secured the state championship the following day, and Am-Po played Dale closer than any other team in the state tournament.

Getting back to the state tournament was a great feeling for head coach Bo Thomason and his team. He used one word after beating No. 8 Howe in the area tournament championship game, and that one word pretty much summed up the feeling of an entire community.

“Awesome,” Thomason said.

Thomason felt like his team had the talent and potential to make it to the state tournament last season, but the basketball gods had other plans for the Lady Panthers.

“Last year, I thought we had a great chance,” Thomason said after the win over Howe. “Had we been healthy, I think we make it.”

A state appearance in 2022 might not have been in the cards, but the Lady Panthers were not going to let that get in their way this past season. Responding to falling short of state by qualifying for state was a battle.

It was a battle the Lady Panthers were prepared for and meant to fight.

“With this team, it’s almost like how we have to get there. … We’ve got to battle through it [adversity], so, fun year,” Thomason said.

And Am-Po was not going to see its season end without a fight, either. A big fourth quarter and double-digit scoring performances from Abbie Savage, Teague Muncy and Gracen Hicks helped the Lady Panthers put away Hartshorne.

Muncy recorded a double-double in that win, grabbing 10 rebounds.

And the Lady Panthers jumped out to a quick double-digit lead against Dale in the semifinal game that felt like a state championship game inside Jim Norick Arena. Two 3s from Savage gave the Lady Panthers a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and Am-Po held a 13-6 lead after the first quarter.

Dale began to rally in the second quarter, tying the game at 13 with a 7-0 run before Am-Po went on an 8-2 run. Ainslee McComas hit a long-range shot to put Am-Po up 21-15, but Dale hit a 3-pointer and trailed 21-18 at halftime.

And the two teams continued to battle in a back-and-forth third quarter, exchanging leads throughout the period.

With Dale leading 36-31 after three quarters, Am-Po continued to just hang around before the Lady Pirates went ahead by 10 late in the game. Am-Po fought until the end, getting the game’s final five points from Savage and McComas before time ran out on the season.

Savage ended the game with a game-high 17 points and a game-high five 3-pointers. Muncy poured in 16 points for the Lady Panthers.

As Thomason said after the win over Howe, it was a fun campaign for the program.

Am-Po went 28-3 during this last campaign, only losing to Dale and Class 4A No. 2 Tuttle in the process. The regular season included three tournament titles, and the postseason included district, regional and area titles before a quarterfinal win over Hartshorne.

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