The Norman Transcript

January 18, 2014

Tigers split pair with SaberCats

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Southmoore coach Wes Brown called for the pressure. The SaberCats responded. The Norman High boys had no answer and that was pretty much that.

Looking for their third win of the season, the Tigers escaped into the second quarter with a three-point lead over their area and Mid-State Conference rival. In a blink, the SaberCats were on their way to a 60-45 victory.

“Rebound and pressure defense,” Brown said. “That was our game plan.”

Friday night at the NHS Gym, it worked.

The Tigers committed 12 turnovers, a fairly reasonable number, yet eight of them came in the second quarter, when Southmoore not only got all those extra possessions, but dominated the glass, too. From being down 14-11 after a quarter, the SaberCats were suddenly up 36-22 at the half.

It wasn’t even the turnovers that had NHS coach Matt Thornton upset the most. Instead, it was the rebounding.

“They just whipped us on the boards,” he said. “I’m going to say we gave up 19 second-chance points in the first half alone.”

He couldn’t have been far off.

In the first half, NHS (2-6) corralled 12 rebounds, while Southmoore grabbed 19, 10 of them off the offensive glass.

The ringleader was Justin Bean, who led both teams with 20 points, 13 rebounds and even three steals. A forward in a small but quick SaberCat lineup, he was constantly around the ball, either cutting to receive it or seemingly knowing where it was headed off the rim.

He had plenty of help from Chelvin Webb, who finished with 16 points and three rebounds, as well as Preston Smith, who added 10 points, eight boards and three assists.

The Tigers countered with 13 points from Cooper Clark, yet all of it in the second half, a time in which NHS was never any closer than 10 points.

John-Michael Bernardello added 10, but all of that came in the first half. Julian Perriott was active throughout and finished with 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

General activity was a problem for the Tigers, who were not as quick or purposeful without the ball as the Sabercats (6-5), nor quick enough to respond with consistency when it was Southmoore being purposeful without the ball.

“We let them cut straight across our face,” Thornton said. “We let them have some easy baskets.”

Keeping their turnovers in check, owning the boards and shooting 53.3 percent (23 of 44) will beat a lot of teams. That was the lesson the SaberCats taught the Tigers. Also, victory’s made even easier when you’re forcing turnovers, too.

“That was our plan,” West said. “Their guards are really good guards. You can’t let them get their feet set.”

In the second quarter, the Tigers were hardly allowed breathing room. 

After a basket from Perriott that put NHS up 16-13, Southmoore came back with a 15-0 run that included a dunk, putbacks and several turnover-aided fast breaks. 

Twice Thornton tried to stem the tide with timeouts. Twice, the SaberCats just kept coming.

Before it was over, Southmoore pushed its lead to 23 points. The Tigers closed on a 9-1 run to hide a fraction of the SaberCats’ dominance.

Norman High girls 55, Southmoore 46: Every victory’s a big one for the NHS girls, but Friday’s may stand alone, as the Tigers (2-6) exploded out of the gate on the way to taking down seventh-ranked Southmoore (8-4).

After a quarter it was 24-11 Tigers and that’s pretty much the way it stayed. NHS led 36-26 at the half and 47-33 after three quarters.

Taylor Ely finished with 25 points and hit free throws down the stretch to ice the game. Bethany Franks kept pace through the first half, scoring 15 of her 17 points before intermission.

Kyeria Hannah led Southmoore with 14 points. Cydni Campbell added 10.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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