By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
MUSTANG — Westmoore entered Friday’s regional opener with a clear plan. The Jaguars planned to slow the game down and not allow the more-athletic Norman North squad to get out and run.
And the Jags committed to that strategy, nearly to a fault. Their first possession took nearly two minutes off the clock, and they shot the ball just five times in the first quarter, while the Timberwolves put up just four shots.
But North led, 6-2, after that quarter, and did nothing but extend the lead in the second quarter as Westmoore dealt with foul trouble. All of which led to a 58-30 victory for North and a date with Mustang in the regional final today.
Westmoore and North had met twice before this season, and in both games the T-Wolves ran up the floor as well as the score. It was something the Jags were determined to avoid on Friday, and in that sense they were successful.
But North forced Westmoore into nine first-half turnovers and took over the game in the second quarter as the Jags continued to be cold from the field. Westmoore managed just two field goals in the first half and were forced to play leading scorer Tripp Fuller with three fouls. North extended the lead to 27-7 at the half.
And it only grew from there. Trae Young caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 10 points as the lead ballooned to more than 30 points at its largest.
“They came out and made us play defense for six minutes in the first quarter, but we came out mentally tough,” senior Payton Prince said. “We played like it could be our last game, because for us seniors it could have been.”
While North’s offense was impressive, coach Bryan Merritt credited his team’s defense for the victory.
“We just kept playing defense and didn’t relax,” he said. “We grinded them out and forced them to come out of it. I’m proud of the way we won that game.”
With the loss, Westmoore ends its season at 9-14, while North improved to 18-6 and will play host team Mustang at 7 p.m. today in the regional final. North will advance to play next week regardless of the result, but a victory puts the T-Wolves into a situation where they need to win just one game, likely against Midwest City, to advance to the state tournament.
But first the T-Wolves must get past fifth-ranked Mustang, which defeated Putnam City in the second game of the night.
“They’ve got a good team and they play fast,” Merritt said. “We’ve got to play defense on their bigs and take care of the ball. But we won’t do anything different than usual.”
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