MOORE — Despite an off night from several of its best players, Norman High found itself within striking distance of Southmoore on Tuesday night. And, in a game that Tigers coach Nichole Copeland said her team could have easily given in, NHS fought back to make it a game.
But the SaberCats were up to the challenge. After watching their lead shrink from double digits down to just three points, Southmoore responded by hitting a pair of 3-pointers and pulling away from there for the 50-37 victory.
Southmoore enjoyed a huge advantage on the boards in a frenetic game rife with turnovers and pileups, and got 21 points from Serithia Hawkins to hold on for the victory after seeing their 14-point lead shrink to six early in the third quarter. The Tigers even drew a technical foul to send Taylor Ely to the free-throw line with a chance to cut into the lead even further.
But Ely couldn’t convert, and the Tigers turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. That gave the SaberCats the window they needed to retake control of the contest, and they didn’t miss out on the opportunity.
The biggest issue for NHS was on the boards. In the first half, which gave Southmoore control of the game, the Tigers allowed the SaberCats to score 15 of their 27 first-half points on offensive rebounds or turnovers. NHS cleaned things up in the second half, but still had trouble competing with Southmoore’s size inside.
“We could’ve folded this game and lost by 30, but we didn’t,” Copeland said. “But rebounding has been our Achilles’ heel all year, and it was tonight. We missed the free throws and then turned the ball over three teams. I know we have the freshman, but it’s February and we can’t use that as an excuse at this point.”
It was a disappointing loss for No. 20 NHS (8-13), which lost a six-point contest against Del City on Money. The Tigers have one more chance, at Moore on Friday, to pick up a win before their playoff opener. 17th-ranked Southmoore (11-11) finishes its regular season at Midwest City on Friday.
While Taylor Ely struggled through one of the worst shooting nights of her career, missing six free throws and not scoring until the third quarter on her way to finishing with just seven points, her teammates stepped up to keep NHS in the game. Bethany Franks had 12 first-half points, while freshman Jandra Levi hit a pair of 3-pointers for NHS, including one in the third quarter that pulled the Tigers within six.
“Great shooters have those nights, and everyone goes through it sometimes,” Copeland said. “I’m not worried about Taylor hitting shots for us. It’s important that she not panic about it. We still believe in her that she’s going to hit those.”
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