NORMAN — Jay Finley began his senior season like he never got the chance to in his junior year. The Norman High guard was injured for all of last year, but returned to the floor with a bang in 2012, leading the Tigers in scoring and even winning the Durant Lion Classic with a buzzer-beater for NHS.
But thanks to a stress fracture in his back, Finley is once against out of the lineup, this time for up to six weeks. The injury was discovered last week and kept the senior out of the Mid-Del Holiday Classic, the first three of about a dozen games Finley is expected to miss.
Six weeks away would bring Finley back for the final week of the regular season, when NHS is scheduled to play Westmoore and Norman North before starting regionals.
Despite the setback, Finley said he is ready to dive headfirst into his rehab regimen, which begins today. The first step is riding the stationary bike at practice and working to strengthen his back, and he vowed to come back stronger.
Tigers’ offense struggles in Finley’s absence: Finley can’t return soon enough for NHS. The Tigers’ offense looked listless at times over the weekend without him, and long scoring droughts marked each of their three narrow losses in the tournament.
Against both Putnam City North and Enid, the Tigers held big leads in the second half only to watch it disappear in the final quarter and lose the lead in the final minutes. It’s a problem that’s been much more evident without Finley, an explosive scorer who can stretch the floor with his length and his jump shot.
“We were out of sync,” coach Matt Thornton said after the PC North game. “We weren’t able to make enough plays down the stretch to win. I think Jay being gone was a part of that.”