MIDWEST CITY — In the first quarter of Thursday’s game against Putnam City, the Tigers kept finding open shots. And they kept missing them. The result, a 9-0 deficit after the period, set the tone of a 52-43 loss to No. 10 Putnam City in the opening game of the Carl Albert tournament.
It was an ugly first quarter for both teams, with each squad committing six turnovers. The only difference between the two was that, while Putnam City was able to find some baskets inside the paint, NHS was forced to settle for outside jumpers. The upside was that they were open shots, but the Tigers perhaps coming out cold in the early morning game, couldn’t knock them down.
By the time NHS finally got on the board with Bethany Cox’s short baseline jumper, there was just 6:42 left in the first half and Putnam City was up 14-0.
“We just dug ourselves too big of a hole,” coach Nichole Copeland said. “But I don’t think we took any shots in the first half we didn’t take in the second. They just weren’t going in.”
The other issue was that the Pirates were more physical than the Tigers from the start. Putnam City dominated NHS on the boards, particularly in a first half where 26 of the Pirates’ 30 points came either on open threes or offensive rebounds.
“Those were the two things we focused on in practice, knowing where their shooters were and blocking out,” Copeland said. “So it was disappointing to see that happen in the first half.”
But as bad as the first half was, the second half was nearly the polar opposite. NHS protected the ball better and got to the basket more. That opened up shots on the outside for Taylor Ely, who showed no signs of lingering from her sprained ankle and led NHS with 26 points. Eighteen of those points came in the second half, and almost exclusively on threes and midrange jumpers.
Led by Ely, the Tigers slowly clawed back into the game. Despite trailing 30-12 at halftime, they cut the deficit to single digits midway through the fourth quarter and got it as close as 50-43 with under a minute remaining.
“We were disappointed in how we played that first half, but I’m proud of the way they came back in the second half,” Copeland said. “I told them to focus on that and use it as momentum for the rest of the weekend.”
Ely added five rebounds to go along with her 26 points. Albany Anderson added 11 points and six rebounds and Bethany Cox had six. But they were the only three Tigers to score, an issue the Tigers hope to change moving forward. Putnam City was led by Jamee Moore’s 16 points and also got 13 from Jayden Oliver.
Next up for NHS is an 11:30 a.m. contest today against OKC Storm. It’s a game Copeland says is a must-win for the Tigers, who are jockeying for playoff position.
“We’re back into must-win mode,” she said. “As long as we can get out of this tournament winning two games, we’ll be just where we need to be.”
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