NORMAN — While leading scorer Taylor Ely spent three weeks on the sideline with a badly sprained ankle, Norman High struggled at first to replace her offensive production. The Tigers lost three straight games at the Westmoore tournament two weeks ago with the final loss coming to the Jags 43-40, primarily because they were having a hard time finding points.
But it was a problem the Tigers seemed to figure out in last Friday’s game against Moore. In that contest, NHS had three players score in double figures, with Albany Anderson leading the way with 18, Bethany Cox scoring 17 and Erica Mitchell chipping in 11. The Tigers scored 51 points in that game and seemed to turn the corner on the offensive end.
Ely made a successful return to the court on Tuesday and led NHS with 17 points in a 43-38 victory over Westmoore in the rematch. She started the game hot but cooled off as it wore on, most likely due to an ankle that is still healing. But, even though she had a noticeable limp after the game, she hit enough big shots down the stretch to propel NHS to victory.
“It felt great to be back out there, and once the adrenaline got going I felt fine,” Ely said after the game. “But it’s a little sore right now.”
Coach Nichole Copeland plans on being careful with Ely’s return to the lineup. In addition to evaluating how her ankle responds to a busy week of basketball, the second-year coach faces another challenge heading into today’s 11:30 a.m. matchup with Putnam City at the Carl Albert tournament — reintegrating Ely into the offense.
It’s not an easy task. Ely’s return to the floor means less time for some of the Tigers’ role players and fewer shots to go around. But it’s one that Copeland will have three games in a row this weekend to figure out, and there’s something to the notion that playing without Ely for a few weeks will make the team better in the long run.