By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
MIDWEST CITY — After his team scored a grand total of 10 points in the second half and a grand total of 37 over the entire game, Norman North boys coach Bryan Merritt was alarmingly peaceful over his ninth-ranked Timberwolves’ 54-37 loss at No. 2 Midwest City.
“Marcus, he sprained his ankle really, really bad and we kind of looked at him and asked, ‘Can you go?’” Merrit said. “I said, ‘One to 10, what is it?’ in terms of pain, and he said nine. At that point, with the playoffs coming up, I wasn’t going to risk it.”
So that’s how Marcus Dickinson, maybe the fastest kid on the court, had to come off the court with 10 points to his name and about 5 minutes
remaining in the third quarter. That’s also how, for the last 13 minutes of the game, the first, second, third, fourth and fifth fastest and quickest players on the court were all Bombers.
With Quan Hogan unavailable, the T-Wolves had no chance to even put a dent in Midwest City’s athleticism. When Lindy Waters picked up his fourth foul with more than a quarter to play, pulling him off the court, things really cratered for the T-Wolves (16-6).
Nonetheless, Merritt wasn’t going in for the bad stuff, at least as long as his words were being recorded.
“It was a barometer for us in the first half,” he said. “We came into their gym and we were down one point (at the half). They’ve lost one game all year and it was an even game.”
That was it.
Merritt left Sutton Fieldhouse almost pleased. His team had visited the west’s best and played the Bombers within a point at the half, what’s to be upset about?
Uh, if I might …
North led by five after a quarter, 17-12, and turned it over four times in the second quarter before putting up a shot, and five times before netting a point. By that time, they’d allowed a 10-0 Midwest City run. How exactly North only trailed by a point at the half — despite three more turnovers — remains a bit of a mystery.
No matter how athletic the other team is, you can’t give up so many offensive rebounds. North might have led by 10 after the first quarter had it controlled the defensive glass. Do that and, who knows, maybe it’s Midwest Ciy that becomes undone.
Also, while Payton Prince has played some terrific basketball the last month, and has been a big part of the reason the T-Wolves entered the winners of eight straight, he fell into a big man’s bad habit Tuesday, leaving his feet with the ball looking for contact rather than two points. Do that and it’s easy to make only 1 of 5 shots, even when they’re all from the paint.
And, with your fastest player hurt, your most versatile player saddled with four fouls and one of your most athletic players unavailable, you still can’t lose your collective mind as the T-Wolves did over the last 10 minutes.
Yes, they were down only a point, 28-27, after 16 minutes, and yes, they proved to themselves and their coach they can play with the state’s second or third or fourth best team (for a half). But it may take more than that event to reach the Class 6A state tournament.
Because it’s not like Midwest City is even remotely disciplined or knows when or if it’s ever going to hit another free throw — the Bombers were 12 of 21 from the stripe Tuesday.
It has great athletes and it plays horrendously difficult and physical defense. Yet, given that, the Bombers are just the kind of team a team like the T-Wolves should give fits.
So, take what you want from it. What looked like a barometer game was exactly that, yet only if you go down Merritt’s path.
It was only a half, but how about that first quarter?
Or, maybe, it was a lesson in how much better the T-Wolves can still become if they can take care of the ball and keep their head.
Anyway, no breakthrough, but maybe North taught itself a lesson. Hanging tough for four quarters is better than hanging tough for one.
Follow me @clayhorning
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.