OKLAHOMA CITY — Norman High’s exciting, last-second victory on Thursday earned the Tigers the right to play against Class 5A’s No. 1 team in Bishop McGuiness at its own tournament.
And in Friday’s game, the Irish showed exactly why they’re ranked so highly.
Bishop McGuinness turned a tight game early into a one-sided affair by frustrating NHS defensively while wearing out the undersized Tigers on offense on the way to a 51-29 victory that sent the Irish into the title game of the Bishop McGuinness Classic and the Tigers into the third-place contest.
The Irish (10-3) offense ran through big man Will Lienhard, a 6-8 senior who the Tigers couldn’t match up with. NHS doubled Lienhard whenever he caught the ball, but he was able to face up and find his teammates around the perimeter. The Irish hit six three pointers in the game and were able to consistently create driving lanes while the Tigers scrambled to recover on defense.
Despite the poor matchup, NHS (1-4) kept the game close throughout the first half, thanks primarily to a gritty defensive effort that held the high-scoring Irish to just 26 first-half points. The trouble for the Tigers came on the offensive end. Bishop McGuinness ran a box-and-one defense in order to always have a man guarding NHS junior Cooper Clark.
The look frustrated and confused the Tigers, and when the Irish began to hit shots in the third quarter the game broke open as Bishop McGuinness outscored NHS 24-3 in the quarter, wrapping up the game early as the benches began to clear.
“I thought we played really hard and defended really well in the first half,” coach Matt Thornton said. “It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t hit shots. And you’ve got to give them credit for defending Cooper. We tried to make some adjustments, but we didn’t respond very well to what they were doing.”
Blanketed by a rotating string of Irish defenders throughout the night, Clark managed just three points, though he also led the team with five rebounds. Sayvon Foley led NHS with seven points, while the Irish got 13 points from Stuart Krous, and a near double-double from Lienhard, who had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“They’ve got a big, and they’ve got guys who can hit shots,” Thornton said. “We played extremely well in the first half, but we knew we couldn’t keep them from scoring whenever. And when we weren’t able to get the ball to fall and score just three points in the third quarter, that’s the game right there.”
The Tigers still have a chance at a trophy, and will meet Yukon, which lost to Norman North in the other semifinal, at 6 p.m. today at Bishop McGuinness.
Follow me @Chosler88
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.