NORMAN — Last season ended on a tough note for the storied Norman High girl’s basketball program. Under first-year coach Nichole Copeland, the Tigers started an inexperienced roster and fought injuries throughout the season en route to a 9-15 finish.
The Tigers’ final game was marked by a critical mental mistake in the game’s final seconds, effectively a microcosm of the season. In that loss to Yukon, an errant pass led to a buzzer-beater by the Millers that ended NHS’ season and hopes of advancing back to their ninth state tournament.
As disappointing as that ending was for Bethany Cox and the rest of the Tigers, it’s only served to motivate them entering this year.
“That game drives us,” the senior forward and team captain said. “Whenever we’re having a hard day at practice, that’s always in the back of our minds.”
Cox said the biggest change in this year’s squad is the attitude they bring to floor. Unlike last year, the Tigers come to practice every day wanting to improve, an important distinction that they believe will lead them to improve on last year’s 9-15 record.
“We’re excited and we’re working hard,” she said. “No one was happy with how last year ended. The attitudes in the locker room have changed.”
Unfortunately for NHS, better attitudes have not come with better luck. Like last year, when Jordan Franks was hurt before the season even began, the Tigers are already dealing with injuries. Chief among the concerns is Cox’s sprained Achilles tendon, but fellow starter Chandler Coale is also nursing a high ankle sprain. Both were slowed in Friday’s season-opening loss to Southmoore.
“You can tell that Bethany isn’t full speed,” Copeland said. “But she’s one of our toughest kids. She would have to either be on crutches or in the hospital before she wouldn’t play.”
That kind of toughness is a new quality for the Tigers, who return three of last year’s starters, Copeland said. She hopes it will bring an increase in the Tigers’ on-court fortunes, and the team has set a goal of competing for a conference championship and returning to the state tournament.
“We’ve made quite a bit of progress, and we had a productive summer,” the second-year coach said. “We’re a little inconsistent and we’re nowhere near where I want to be, but we’re getting there.”
The next step for the Tigers comes at 6:15 tonight, when they play Moore in the home opener.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com