NORMAN — Norman High had defeated Norman North in every Crosstown Clash dating back 10 years until the Timberwolves beat NHS earlier this season.
Despite that, it’s the Tigers who enter tonight’s Clash rematch much more in need of a win. NHS (8-14) has lost five straight and the last loss, a 57-39 defeat to Westmoore on Tuesday, came without starter Bethany Cox, who is still questionable for today’s 6:15 p.m. game at NHS.
Worse for the Tigers in their loss to the Jaguars was the way in which they lost. In tight losses against Midwest City and Edmond Memorial, NHS played good team defense and, more importantly for coach Nichole Copeland, played together. That’s something that was missing Tuesday, and it’s something the second-year coach hopes her team can rekindle tonight.
“They didn’t play together or help each other at all tonight,” she said after the loss. “Every man was on an island, and that’s not how good teams play.”
Copeland used film of the game to show her team the mistakes they made in hopes of improvement against North. But the ultimate change isn’t something that coaches can control, Copeland said.
“They have to see it for themselves and decide to do the right things,” she said. “Right now, Friday’s game is the least of our worries. We have to worry about us.”
With just a week to go before NHS opens the postseason against Midwest City, the Tigers not only have to correct the mental mistakes. With Taylor Ely still struggling at times with a lingering ankle injury and Cox’s recent absence, they must figure out how to reintegrate an offense that has struggled recently.
It’s a slightly different story at North, where the Timberwolves are healthy but interested in cleaning up some mistakes in hopes of making a deep playoff run.
“It’s a mental game for us right now,” coach Jeff Blough said. “But I like where we’re at. We just need to eliminate some mental mistakes.”
Against the Tigers, Blough knows he’s facing a different Tiger team than the one the T-Wolves faced two months ago. The emergence of Chandler Coale and Albany Anderson on offense has changed the way teams must defend NHS.
“I don’t think we’re going to shoot 64 percent again, so we’re going to have to be aware of their scorers on defense,” he said. “It’s an added dimension to their offense on top of what Taylor and Bethany can do.”
The Timberwolves are focusing on bettering their screens and ball movement against the Tigers. Both are areas that North struggled at in Tuesday’s loss to Southmoore.
“When we run and trap we can’t miss any rotations,” he said. “That’s something we did at Southmoore, and it gives them easy baskets. We have to know where their personnel are at on the floor.”
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