OKLAHOMA CITY — For the second straight day, Norman High took a large second half lead. But unlike the opener in the Bishop McGuinness Classic on Thursday against Guthrie, this time the Tigers didn’t let their opponent back in the game.
The result was a decisive 71-48 victory over Northwest Classen on Friday that broke a five-game losing streak for NHS. It was also a chance for Daniel Harper to get back on the court after having an off-game on Thursday.
And the senior captain made the most of it, hitting two early threes to key the Tigers to a comeback after falling behind early.
The two shots capped off a 10-2 NHS run that put the Tigers up 12-10 after falling behind 8-2, and spurred Harper to what may have been his best game of the season. He finished with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds on an efficient night.
Harper’s assists also served to set up Sam Blodgett, who had a monster game to the tune of 20 points and 14 rebounds while dominating the paint.
“We were able to get out and run some in transition and I just was looking for the open man,” Harper said. “We didn’t have much intensity on defense early, but once we picked that up we were able to get some easy baskets.”
The importance of the victory for NHS can’t be overstated after the free fall that followed Jay Finley exiting the lineup with an injury last month. The Tigers had lost seven of their last eight games, and too many had come from blown leads late in the game.
That was something the Tigers made sure wouldn’t happen on Friday. It was a close game for most of the first half until NHS made a run late in the second quarter to extend a narrow lead to a 10-point halftime margin.
They played even better after the break, hitting shots and clamping down on defense to force six of the Knights’ 16 turnovers in the quarter. It was the defining factor in a 28-9 NHS run that put the game out of reach for Northwest Classen.
“We were able to hit shots today when we needed to,” coach Matt Thornton said. “Defensively we were lacking in the first quarter, but we picked that up as the game went on.”
Unlike Thursday, when Guthrie was able to come back from 10 down to beat NHS in overtime, the Knights never mounted a serious run. Thornton credited Harper’s leadership on the court for keeping the Tigers in control.
“When your senior point guard gets going it makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “He’s always been capable of having a big game, and today he was able to do that. For us, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.”
Next up is today’s consolation final against Deer Creek at 3 p.m., a game the Tigers are heading into with more confidence now that the five-game losing streak is behind them.
“Confidence is a big thing in these games,” Thornton said. “We’ve just got to keep ourselves going offensively and play together. When we play together, that’s when we play really well.”
Mustang 46, Norman High girls 33: Norman High fell to a second straight loss Friday when Mustang slowed down the Tigers enough to roll to a 46-33 victory.
With leading scorer Taylor Ely still out with a badly sprained ankle, the Tigers struggled to score against the Mustang defense, turning in one of their lowest scoring efforts of the year.
With Ely expected to miss at least another week, the Tigers have one more game today at the Westmoore tournament to find some scoring production from their role players. They face a true road game when they take on Westmoore at 1:30 today.