NORMAN — After a 14-6 start and a No. 8 ranking, the Norman North girls will host the first round of the playoffs.
Playoff brackets were released Thursday, and while there are tough matchups for all Norman-area teams, the girls will have the benefit of playing in town.
North will host Lawton (4-13) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, with the game coming immediately after Norman High (8-12) plays Midwest City (12-8). The loser in each game will be eliminated, while the winners will play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Both teams will advance to the area tournament the following weekend, with the winner of that game facing an easier path to the state tournament.
On the boys’ side, NHS (8-12) will travel to face No. 10 Edmond North (12-8) for a 6:30 p.m. game Feb. 22 at Edmond Memorial, while North (9-11) will face Putnam City West (10-9) at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at Putnam City.
The brackets create several intriguing storylines, the first being a possible Clash in the second round if both the NHS and North girls win. North won the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 20 and they are scheduled to close out the regular season with a rematch on Friday.
If both favored teams win, it creates a North-Midwest City rematch after the two squads have played two down-to-the-wire games this season, with Midwest City winning both narrowly and one in overtime.
For the boys, North enters a game with Putnam City West that is essentially a toss-up. The teams have similar records and have both earned impressive victories this season, with North beating Class 5A top-five teams Del City and Carl Albert. Putnam City West owns victories over Edmond North and Edmond Santa Fe. The Patriots also have overtime losses to top-ranked Midwest City and No. 3 Putnam City.
With pairings now set, North coach Butch Roberts is now more focused on consistent improvement than any specific game.
“Right now, it’s about getting better every day and being better next week than we are this week,” he said.
It’s a similar story at NHS, where coach Matt Thornton is trying to get a team in flux to coalesce in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Tigers are incorporating Jay Finley back into the offense after playing without him for more than a month.
It’s a work in progress that is beginning to bear fruit. Finley finished with 13 points in Tuesday’s loss to Edmond Memorial, his best performance since returning almost two weeks ago.
“Jay seemed to feel more comfortable tonight than he has,” Thornton said after Tuesday’s contest. “That’s one step closer to where we want to be. We’re still working to become more consistent.”
Follow me @Chosler88