NORMAN — The game was slipping away. Southmoore, once down 14 points, had cut the Norman High lead to just four points at 46-42 in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s showdown. Worse yet, the Tigers’ offense had stalled, with the SaberCats blocking off the driving lanes and clogging the paint to prevent center Sam Blodgett from getting an open look.
It wasn’t the first time the Tigers had watched a lead slip away this year. NHS has held several late leads this year only to watch them disappear as the other team made a comeback to snatch victory. And with Southmoore hot and the Tigers dazed, it looked as if it might happen again.
That was when, with three minutes left in the game, sophomore Cooper Clark calmly dribbled past a defender, pulled up from just inside the three-point line and cleanly swished a bucket to give the Tigers some breathing room.
Fifteen minutes later, after NHS had secured a 53-48 victory over Southmoore on the back of Clark’s 12 points and numerous clutch shots, coach Matt Thornton didn’t hold back.
“Cooper will find a way a win, and it’s so important to have that on your team,” he said. “Honestly, there’s more being asked of him than what should be for a sophomore, but he’s a very talented kid and accepts that challenge.”
Meeting challenges is nothing new for Clark, the son of former NHS coach Wes Clark. He’s played basketball his entire life, with many of those years coming under his father’s tutelage as the coach for his AAU team.
Clark was looking forward to playing for his father at NHS, but after his dad left the team in 2010 partially due to needing knee surgery, Clark had to change his plans. Not that it slowed him down any. As a freshman a year ago under coach Jeff McCullough, Clark impressed the coach enough to earn a prominent sixth-man role off the bench for a loaded Tiger team.