NORMAN — For the first time, all four Norman High and Norman North varsity basketball teams will be playing tournaments between Christmas and New Year’s.
Though there’s been an explosion of such tourneys since the OSSAA ruled prior to last season that teams may play up to a 23-game schedule that includes three regular-season tournaments, don’t expect the Tigers and Timberwolves to continue sending all their squads to holiday events.
Only one of the four programs’ head coaches prefers playing games to practicing during the time.
That would be North girls coach Jeff Blough, whose Timberwolves are in Duncan at 4 p.m. today to play U.S. Grant in the first round of the Chisolm Trail Holiday Classic.
“Typical high school kids, they’d rather play games than practice,” Blough said, “and it gives us a chance to bond.”
Blough is with his players on the matter. Also, he likes the fact his team will get some time off in January while most others are playing tourneys. If the T-Wolves are suffering any nicks and bruises, they’ll have the time to heal before sprinting toward the postseason.
NHS girls coach Nichole Copeland and her boys counterpart, Matt Thornton, are on the other side of the issue.
Historically, the space between the holidays has been a period in which the hours a coach and his or her team may spend in the gym together are ungoverned by the OSSAA. Additionally, with school out, players aren’t weighed down by academics and coaches are able to use the extra time creatively.
“I’d prefer not to play (games),” Copeland said. “I’d probably rather play the early December tournament.”
It’s not like Copeland looks forward to running her Tigers ragged over the break. Still, she would have more time, even using some of it to create a very competitive environment.
“I would bring some people in,” Copeland said. “Do some scrimmaging (with other teams) and things like that.”
Instead, the Tigers will be at the Ardmore Holiday Festival beginning Friday morning. Originally scheduled to begin today, weather has pushed the brackets back 24 hours, and every team will play two games Friday.
The NHS girls meet Putnam City West at 11 a.m. Friday at Ardmore Middle School. Should they beat the Patriots, they’d play their second-round game at 4:20 p.m. the same day at Ardmore High School.
Thornton, whose Tigers boys meet Putnam City North at 3:30 p.m. today at Del City, echoes many of Copeland’s thoughts.
“To be honest, I’ve never really been a big fan of (holiday tournaments),” he said. “Like this year, we’ll play 11 games before January and you feel like that’s the bulk of your season. I’d rather play the bulk of my season in January.”
Thorton’s past teams, he said, have used the extra practice time to make real improvement.
“Teams I’ve had in the past,” he said, “That’s really where we’ve gelled the most.”
North boys coach Butch Roberts is staking out a middle ground but remains closer to Thornton and Copeland’s view than Blough’s.
“I spent a solid month trying to find a tournament the first week in December,” he said.
Had Roberts found one, the North boys wouldn’t be joining the NHS girls in Ardmore, where they’ll meet Carl Albert at 1:40 p.m. Friday at Ardmore Middle School. Still, after not finding an early December tourney, Roberts sought out a holiday tourney. He would rather play every game he’s allowed than get his holiday practice time back.
Also, after last week’s Crosstown Clash, a loss to NHS, Roberts isn’t minding the schedule quite so much.
“I probably would be more on the negative side if I didn’t think getting back on the game court wasn’t as important after (last) Thursday night,” he said. “We need to wash that taste our of our mouths.”
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org