DURANT — Norman High won the opening tip, and Daniel Harper brought the ball into the frontcourt. Just a few seconds later, he found Sam Blodgett in the low post, and Blodgett was able to easily back down his defender and score an easy bucket.
It was a very quick start to what became a trend for the Tigers, who were able to utilize their size advantage in a 58-43 victory over Shawnee in the semifinals of the Durant Lion Classic.
But while the Tigers were able to pull away in the win, they left something to be desired in the way they did it, coach Matt Thornton said.
“Offensively we were out of sync in the first half,” he said. “We have a habit of sometimes just standing around and playing the way they want us to rather than taking it to them.”
It was a small step back for Tiger team that played well on Thursday. A lack of transition defense and 14 turnovers by NHS kept Shawnee in the game and made it closer than it should have been, in the eyes of the Tigers’ first-year coach.
“It was an ugly game in the first half,” he said. “But we came out better in the second half and took care of some things. I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.”
NHS trailed for much of the first half before using a 7-2 run to take a 14-11 lead into the second quarter. In that frame, it looked like the Tigers might put some distance between themselves and the Wolves after 23-14, but Shawnee fought back to close the gap to 25-22 at the half.
“We were sluggish in the first half,” Harper said. “We weren’t in sync like we were on Thursday.”
But NHS was able to turn it around in the third quarter. Gaining a lift from seldom-used bench player Michael Kish, who hit two three pointers for NHS, the Tigers were able to open up a sizable lead.
And from there, they did exactly what they needed to do to close out the game. They went to a spread offense and kept the ball moving to burn clock, forcing Shawnee to begin fouling with more than four minutes left in the game. And the Tigers sealed it at the line, with Harper hitting six straight free throws to extend the lead and Cooper Clark hitting three more in the game’s final minute to ice the victory.
Next up for NHS is a title tilt against Westmoore at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
“They’re a good team,” Thornton said of the Jaguars. “We’ve got to play better than we did against Shawnee. We have to get back and transition and keep the ball in front of us to stop their penetration.”
North girls 46Hugo girls 32
The Timberwolves bounced back from a one-point loss to Putnam City North on Thursday with a big win over Hugo in the second round of the Durant Lions Classic.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but coach Jeff Blough said he was pleased with the way his team took care of its business.
“It was pretty sloppy today, but part of that was what Hugo did switching in and out of defenses,” he said. “They tried to make it ugly and it worked, but we got the win.”
Bri Kuestersteffen led North with 17 points, five assists and three steals. Haley Woodard added 11 points and seven boards. The T-Wolves will meet Fayetteville, Ark. In the consolation finals at noon today.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com