By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
CHOCTAW — Norman North put together its best season in years. The Timberwolves finished 19-8 and made a deep playoff run despite battling injuries and playing without a full roster the final month of the season.
That run came to an end on Saturday, as Lawton Eisenhower defeated North 75-52 to punch its ticket to the state tournament and end the Timberwolves’ season.
“We just didn’t have it tonight,” coach Bryan Merritt said. “For whatever reason, we looked slow tonight and didn’t compete the way we needed to.”
It was a commanding performance for Lawton Eisenhower, which a night earlier came within a minute of upsetting the state’s No. 1 team in Putnam City West. Against North, the Eagles dominated the boards, outrebounding the T-Wolves 38-19 and using the second chances to build an 11-point halftime lead and stretching it to 20 points in the second half before emptying the bench and coasting the final four minutes.
It was a balanced attack from the Eagles, who utilized the 6-6 Douglas Moore inside to draw the North defense in before the junior dished the ball back to feed his shooters. It resulted in four Eagles scoring in double-digits, with Jamey Woods and Dominique Pierre each scoring 15 while Moore had 13 to go along with nine rebounds.
After a hot start from freshman Trae Young, North struggled from the field against the long and athletic defenders from Lawton Eisenhower. Young led the way with 14 points and Kairo Rutledge had 13, but no other T-Wolves’ player hit double digits.
In Merritt’s first season, he took a team that struggled to post a .500 record a season ago and turned them into a squad that competed with some of the state’s top teams, coming up just short several times. North won the second-most games in program history and competed in the championship game of every tournament it entered.
The Timberwolves will return three starters next season, and Merritt said that Saturday’s loss could hold a lesson for those returners next season.
“We didn’t have any guys in our locker room that had won a playoff game before,” he said. “Getting here, they see what it takes in Class 6A to make it to state, and the teams you have to beat.”
North will lose several key contributors to graduation, including Payton Prince, Kairo Rutledge and Malcolm Carter.
“Looking at this season, those guys did a lot,” Merritt said of his senior class. “To accomplish what we did with me only being here seven months, I’m pleased with the season. To win the second-most games in the history of the school, they did a lot over the whole year.”
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