By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman High entered the season with a talented freshman class and a core group of upperclassmen to help guide them along. But one of those upperclassmen won’t be on the floor as expected this weekend.
Erica Mitchell, a junior post player expected to help the Tigers with their inside presence, sat out the first month of the season with a torn ACL. She was expected back last week but re-strained the injury during practice.
The injury will keep Mitchell out several more weeks, as the Tigers (0-3) head to Westmoore for a tournament today.
“It hurts to have one of your starting post players out,” coach Nichole Copeland said. “We think she’ll be back in three or so weeks.”
Tigers looking forward to getting back on court: Norman High’s boys’ team this year may have unintentionally set a school record they didn’t ever want to: most practices and fewest games by January.
The Tigers (0-3) had one tournament and several other games canceled due to the weather, which has kept an inexperienced team from gaining any traction this season. Entering today’s Bishop McGuinness tournament, NHS has practiced 51 times while playing just three games. It’s a unique predicament that coach Matt Thornton is eager to put behind him.
“It’s going to change fast,” he said. “We’ve got 20 games in a month and a half coming up. We’ve had the best practices we’ve had in the last two weeks; it hasn’t been as much of a grind as you’d expect.”
Inside duo giving T-Wolves edge: A year ago Norman North was a team that had strong guard play but was relatively limited inside the paint. Twelve months later, it’s a different story for the ninth-ranked T-Wolves, thanks to the duo of Payton Prince and Kairo Rutledge.
Rutledge is a bruising inside force who has improved his conditioning enough to make his presence felt. Combined with Prince’s athleticism in the lane, it’s brought a potent balance to the Timberwolves and their 5-1 start.
“Payton’s been playing pretty good, and Kairo’s been doing good for us as well,” coach Bryan Merritt said. “We’ve had a good balance so far.”
Tigers to focus on defense:
The Tigers are playing their first game in three weeks today when they travel to the McGuinness tournament to meet Edmond North at 7:30 p.m. today, and they’re coming in with several keys to focus on.
At the top of that list is more consistent defense. The Tigers have played solid defense at times this season but have also gone stretches where they’ve given up points in bunches. That’s something Thornton hopes to change this weekend.
“We’ve got to get more stops,” he said. “We have a lot of lineups where we have to go small, and that makes it more important to play good defense and block out so we can get out and run.”
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