The Norman Transcript

March 8, 2014

North runs away for ’Cats; now a win from state

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

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.

It was Brandon Mosby, Darius Hodge and Cooper Battiste who picked up the slack for the SaberCats in those departments. They trailed the T-Wolves 41-34 at halftime.

North’s front-line started to take over the game in the third quarter. Payton Prince, Lindy Waters and Kairo Rutledge controlled the boards and got easy putbacks.

Prince posted up in the paint at will and dominated. The ’Cats had no one big enough to keep him out, so he had his way at times.

When the SaberCats’ outside shooting dried up, they couldn’t find any other ways to consistently put the ball in the hole. North pulled ahead by 23 points heading into the fourth.

Southmoore never threatened in the final period.

“Coach Merritt got in our butt the second half and told us. ‘Y’all better come out here and get this W,’” Prince said. “We’ve gone six months working this hard and you don’t want to go home. We still have to eat.”

Young led all scorers with 21 points. Prince added 20.

Battiste scored 14 for the ’Cats. Dunya Rice chipped in with 12.

North is expecting a tougher matchup today when they face the Eagles, who came up short against No. 1 Putnam City West. But with a trip to state on the line, they know what they have to do.

“It’s just big for the program,” Prince said. “To go play Lawton Ike tomorrow, we hope to get the W.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth


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