NORMAN — When Norman High and Norman North meet at tonight’s Crosstown Clash for the regular-season finale, the contest may not have any affect on the playoff picture, with regional pairings already set, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty on line.
“We know this game doesn’t matter as far as playoffs, but it’s a big game for us pride-wise,” NHS sophomore Cooper Clark said. “It’s a chance to get some momentum before the playoffs.”
It’s the same story at North where the T-Wolves, coming off a big win over Southmoore on Tuesday, have the talent to make a deep playoff run if they can find the consistency coach Butch Roberts has been looking for. And in that regard, tonight’s Clash is an opportunity for North to show how far it has come since the first meeting between the two squads this year, a 74-54 Tiger victory on Dec. 20.
But circumstances are much different this time around. In the last meeting, the Tigers were playing their eighth game of the season while the T-Wolves were on just their third. For a team with so much freshman talent in the rotation, the sizable difference in experience clearly favored NHS.
That won’t be the case this time around, as the Timberwolves have played nearly a full season and the freshman duo of Lindy Waters and Marcus Dickinson has plenty of games under their belt. Since then, the T-Wolves have coalesced as a team and improved in all phases.
“A lot of things are different this time around,” senior Blake Knighton said. “Last time we played we weren’t as clear on what our responsibilities were, especially on defense. We know our roles better now.”
The biggest challenge for North will be stopping NHS’ Sam Blodgett inside. In the first meeting, Blodgett scored 23 points and dominated the paint. Containing him will be the T-Wolves’ first priority.
On the other side, NHS will focus on containing Dickinson’s penetration. The freshman is adept at getting into the paint and drawing contact, putting opposing defenses into foul trouble and scoring freely at the free-throw line.
“We know we have to stop Marcus,” Clark said. “And we need to improve on the little things, blocking out and defending. We have to focus and finish.”
Tigers coach Matt Thornton is trying to keep his team focused on the big picture, which is improving heading into the postseason. But even with that in mind, he knows the importance of the contest.
“It’s a big rivalry game for the kids,” he said. “But we’ve just wanted to use these last four or five games to get together and play our best basketball down the stretch, and I’ve think we’ve done that. I’ve liked the effort so far.”
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