By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
MIDWEST CITY — Norman High coach Nichole Copeland called it the most complete game the Tigers have played all season.
And it was. NHS stuck with No. 8 Bartlesville from start to finish, slowing down Bartlesville star Hailey Tucker and efficiently executing their own offense. But it wasn’t enough to upset the Bruins, who hung on for a 51-48 victory in Friday’s semifinal of the Carl Albert Titan Classic.
NHS played from behind the entire second half but had a chance to tie it at the buzzer. But Taylor Ely’s 3-pointer was blocked by Bartlesville’s Ali Nakvinda to seal the game. It was a disappointing ending but not a disappointing effort by the Tigers, who matched the state’s eighth-ranked team step for step and were just a play or two away from pulling off their second upset of the weekend after knocking off No. 15 Putnam City on Thursday.
“From start to finish, I thought we played well,” Copeland said. “Our offensive execution was good and I’m pleased with our effort.”
The one thing Copeland was disappointed in, and the thing that came back to haunt the Tigers, was rebounding. Bartlesville (11-2) outrebounded NHS 27-19 and came up with several big offensive rebounds late in the game.
“You can’t give a team that good extra possessions,” Copeland said. “They’ll make you pay for it, and they did.”
Despite being outworked on the boards, the Tigers gave themselves a chance to win by slowing down Tucker, who despite finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds was unable to take over the game the way the highly touted prospect is used to. Bethany Franks, who had a big game of her own with 15 points and nine rebounds, drew the defensive assignment on Tucker, and competed well along the perimeter while also forcing Tucker into foul trouble on the other end of the floor. Tucker played the final five minutes of the game with four fouls, significantly limiting what she was able to do on both ends of the floor.
Copeland was proud of her team’s defensive effort all around, but especially of the way Franks stepped up.
“We’re playing against a girl with D-1 offers from anywhere she wants, and I’m defending her with a 14-year-old freshman,” Copeland said. “And Bethany did a really good job.”
Taylor Ely also contributed 17 points for NHS, while Chandler Coale had six points and seven assists. Six Tigers scored in the game, a significant improvement from past games where Ely and Franks have dominated the stat sheet. That balance was a point of emphasis for the Tigers, and one they earned high marks on after the game.
“We talked to the girls about having to get more people involved, and they did that tonight,” Copeland said. “This was the first time we’ve put good games together back-to-back, and I think we’re the best 4-11 team in the state. There’s not many people who want to play us. We’ll come out tomorrow and try to put together three games.
NHS will compete for third place in the tournament at 4 p.m. today at Carl Albert.
Follow me @Chosler88
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