NORMAN — One of the constants in Class 6A basketball for the last several years has been Midwest City. The Bombers are consistently good on both the boys’ and girls’ sides, and have become a mainstay in the state tournament and title games. The Bombers’ high-pressure, all the time, strategy has frustrated opponents for years and forced them into game-changing mistakes, and this year’s teams are no different.
Norman North is a recent riser, with the girls advancing to the state tournament a year ago and the boys’ team much improved this season.
The two sides will clash tonight, when Midwest City’s third-ranked girls’ team meets the fourth-ranked Timberwolves and the third-ranked boys’ team clashes with No. 8 North.
“It’s Midwest City, you know what you’re going to get,” North boys’ coach Bryan Merritt said. “They’re going to pressure you the entire game, and they’re going to alleviate the big man by not letting you set up and they’re going to take coaching out of it. If your coach is drawing up a play you’re already down. The players just have to handle the pressure and make plays.”
The key to finding success against Midwest City is in managing the pressure. The Bombers line up with full-court, man-to-man and use it to run a series of traps to create turnovers and find easy baskets. Opponents who spend too much time dribbling or moving sideways against the pressure find themselves turning the ball over, while those who have found success against the Bombers attack the pressure.
“The only way you beat pressure is to hit it in the mouth,” Merritt said. “You have to make them pay for it every time.”
For Merritt’s 7-3 squad, that burden will fall onto guards Lindy Waters, Trae Young, and Marcus Dickinson, who had a breakout scoring game with 24 first-half points against Moore on Tuesday. The Bombers (11-1) have strengths inside and outside, but Merritt said his team can create odd-numbered breaks if they can handle the pressure in the backcourt.
On the girls’ side, much of the game will come down to how well the T-Wolves (6-1) handle Midwest City’s Jasauen Beard. The senior led the Bombers to a big win over Norman High on Tuesday by scoring 30 points and pulling in six rebounds. She was able to effortlessly penetrate the Tigers’ defense and was active on the offensive boards.
“It’s all about rebounding,” North coach Jeff Blough said. “We had two close games with them last year, and they got us in overtime. So we’re not that far off, we’ve just got to take care of the ball, step to the pass, play fundamental basketball. You can’t be afraid to run with them 3-point line to 3-point line.”
While playing against Midwest City is a unique challenge in Class 6A, defeating the Bombers is also a unique achievement.
“It’s a good barometer of where you’re at, and it’s good to have a game like this at this point of the year,” Blough said. “This will show you where you’re at as a team.”
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