NORMAN — The good news for Norman High is that the flu, which had been making the rounds through the Tiger locker room, is finally going away. But, as has become too common for NHS this season, that bit of good news was dashed by some bad news on the same day.
Leading scorer Taylor Ely, who has been out for two weeks with a badly sprained ankle, is not ready to return for today’s 6:15 p.m. tip at Moore. Ely had originally planned to try to return for last weekend’s Westmoore tournament, but that was pushed back to tonight’s contest against Moore and is now being delayed until next Thursday’s Carl Albert tournament opener.
“She may try to sneak a jersey on at Moore, but there’s no way we’re going to put her back out there before she’s ready,” coach Nichole Copeland said. “She just got back on the floor and she’s at maybe 50 percent.”
NHS (4-8) has struggled on offense without Ely. The Tigers’ defense has been steady, but in three straight losses at the Westmoore tournament they failed to surpass 40 points after doing so in five of their first nine games, and shot under 30 percent from the field in all three games.
Ely said she wants to return as soon as possible, but Copeland is being careful with the junior. It’s the first ankle sprain she’s ever suffered, and while there is no serious damage it’s been slow going to get back on the court.
There are encouraging signs Ely may make it back next week. Her return to the practice floor on Monday came after nearly two weeks off the court. And she’s progressed more in the last three or four days than she did at any point before then, a sign she may be ready to jump back in at Carl Albert.
“Obviously, we want her on the floor with us but we don’t want to make it worse by bringing her back before she’s ready,” Copeland said. “The good news is the first ankle sprain is always the worst. I told her the next time it happens, she will probably be able to just jump back up.”
With Ely gone, much of the scoring load has fallen to Bethany Cox. Battling flu-like symptoms last weekend, Cox had an underwhelming showing at Westmoore.
There have been some signs that other Tigers can help to fill the void. Senior Albany Anderson has increased her production on the offensive end, but her real contributions have come on the boards, where she’s recorded more than 10 rebounds a game in the Tigers’ last four contests.
NHS has other offensive threats to look to. Chandler Coale is shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc, and sophomores Channah Cox and Erica Mitchell, who scored 13 first-half points against Mustang on Friday, are also capable scorers. But the Tigers are hurting from inconsistency and the loss of their go-to shooter late in games.
“Defensively we’ve played pretty well, and we have players who can fill it up on offense,” Copeland said. “But we have to figure out how to do it in a game situation with the lights on.”
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