CHOCTAW — For the third time this season, Norman North and Southmoore faced off. Even though the Timberwolves had won the previous two matchups handily, Friday night’s encounter had much more riding on it.
It didn’t seem to matter to North, as they rolled to an 86-58 victory in the area tournament in Choctaw. The win means they will face Lawton Eisenhower at 8 p.m. Saturday for a spot in next week’s state tournament.
“When I got the job in June, if you had told me we’re going to win 19 games, and play one game to go to the state tournament, I would have took it every day and twice on Sunday,” North coach Bryan Merritt said. “And the kids just have to go make plays. We just have to outplay Lawton Ike’s players. It ain’t about coaching or nothing. At this point, it’s about which team wants to go to the state tournament the worst.”
The loss ended the SaberCats’ season, but not before they put up a fight.
After falling behind early, the Timberwolves turned up the pressure on defense. They started attacking the Southmoore ball handlers and forcing turnovers, which led to easy transition baskets. That included Marcus Dickinson throwing down a thunderous two-handed dunk to power North to a 19-13 first quarter lead.
Trae Young found his shooting touch early and began to pull up from 25-feet, drilling 3-pointers. When the ’Cats ran out to get a hand in his face, he was able to drive by them for layups.
“It helps me a lot,” Young said. “They respect me when I shoot. When they respect me, they jump.”
With Justin Bean lost for the postseason, the SaberCats’ already short bench got even smaller. But what they missed most was his all out hustle on the boards and defense.