By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Across the state, expectations are low for both Norman schools heading into tonight’s Class 6A playoff opener. But Norman High and Norman North have shown that, this year at least, they can’t be discounted, and it’s something Tigers and Timberwolves are counting on again this weekend.
Norman High has overachieved at times this year, but not many are giving the Tigers a chance against No. 10 Edmond North, one of the biggest surprise success stories of the season, when the two meet at 6:30 p.m. today at Edmond Memorial.
Likewise, while North faces a toss-up against Putnam City West at the same time today at Putnam City, the Timberwolves will be the underdog in a probable Saturday matchup against second-ranked Putnam City.
That leaves both teams fighting this weekend to outperform expectations, and both teams have shown the ability to do so this season. NHS has secured impressive wins over Del City and Westmoore, while North proved that, for two and a half quarters at least, it can get the better of even No. 2 Edmond Memorial.
For the Timberwolves (11-12), the first step is to overcome Putnam City West (12-10), a team that, much like North, has proven it can play against the top teams in the state despite a middling record. The Patriots own victories over Edmond North and Edmond Santa Fe and also have taken top-ranked Midwest City and No. 2 Putnam City to overtime.
One advantage that North has is the emergence of center Kairo Rutledge. The transfer junior has steadily increased both his minutes and his impact on the court in the last month. Against NHS Friday in the Crosstown Clash, Rutledge led North to a revenge victory in the rematch with a double-double on 10 points and 13 rebounds. The big man dominated the paint and significantly slowed NHS center Sam Blodgett, who torched the T-Wolves in the first meeting.
And Friday’s win may have been the confidence boost the T-Wolves were looking for.
“It’s essentially meaningless as far as playoffs, but it’s still a big game,” senior Blake Knighton said before North upset NHS 52-49.
Knighton was optimistic that a win over NHS would springboard North into the postseason, and the T-Wolves will try tonight to carry that momentum into tonight’s contest.
While North’s promising young roster will be fighting to make a run in what is the first postseason for many of its players, a senior-laden NHS squad will be in Edmond to try and upset Edmond North.
While the Huskies are heavily favored, NHS coach Matt Thornton likes the matchup.
“The way we match up with them and how they play defense, they’ll give us wide-open shots on the outside,” he said. “We just have to hit them. We got the seed and the matchup we wanted and I like our chances. We just have to come out and perform.”
Follow me @Chosler88
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.