By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Three days after Norman North freshman Trae Young played the worst game of his young career in a loss to Moore, he turned in the best game of it on Friday.
But, as good as Young and the rest of the Timberwolves were at times on Friday, third-ranked Midwest City was better, and squeaked out a 76-73 overtime win over the Timberwolves.
Despite heroics on both sides — Midwest City’s Torey Noel and North’s Kairo Rutledge both hit two game-tying free throws in the final seconds regulation — it was the Bombers who hung on in overtime to walk away with the victory over No. 9 North.
Young did all he could. Shrugging off a horrendous shooting night on Tuesday, the freshman came out firing from the start against the Bombers. He hit his first shot just 10 seconds into the contest and quickly followed that up with a no-look pass to Lindy Waters for a layup and then another deep 3.
It was just the beginning to a hot Timberwolves’ run that put them in control early. Thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers and layups, the T-Wolves jumped out to a 26-14 lead in the first quarter.
And it was just the start for Young, who hit his first six 3s as North built a 38-21 lead in the second quarter. Young finished with 23 points and made seven 3-pointers.
“Sometimes with freshmen, it’s a process, and as a coach I’m loyal to my guys,” coach Bryan Merritt said. “T.Y. bounced back from Tuesday and shot really well tonight, and that’s the real him. We all believe in him, and he came out ready to shoot tonight.”
But the Bombers would fight back. Spurred by a high-pressure fullcourt trap, Midwest City forced North into a string of turnovers and turned them into easy baskets. The Bombers cut the lead to eight points at halftime, and quickly eliminated that deficit in the second half’s opening minutes with an 8-0 run to tie the game.
The Timberwolves would respond and take a four-point lead into what would be a hectic fourth quarter in which their mistakes finally caught up to them.
It came in the form of fouls. Fighting foul trouble for the entire game, it finally caught up to North in the final frame. First it was Marcus Dickinson, who went out with four minutes remaining and left North without a point guard. Then Lindy Waters earned his fifth foul just moments after hitting a go-ahead shot with two minutes left. Next out was Garrett Pearson and Quan Hogan, and North — already playing without injured guards Malcolm Carter and Najji Brown — was in desperate straits.
Still, the T-Wolves had their chances. They owned a lead with under a minute left in regulation and had several chances at the buzzer to end it. Their prayers went unanswered, and Midwest City pulled away in overtime despite going just 6-13 in the extra period.
“In tight games like this, it always comes down to one play,” Merritt said. “We’ve had four losses, and all of them have come down to one play. It’s a process, and you’ve got to learn how to play in tight games. We started three sophomores and a freshman tonight. As long as we keep playing as hard and as tough as we did tonight, we’re going to start winning these.”
Young and Waters both scored 23 for North, while Payton Prince added nine points and seven rebounds. On the other side, Kesean Brown and Noel both had 20, none bigger than Noel’s string of eight straight free throws in the final minutes of regulation, part of an extreme discrepancy at the line. North made 25 baskets in the game to Midwest City’s 13, but the Bombers shot 53 throws to just 14 for the Timberwolves.
Next up for North is a makeup game at Westmoore tonight.
Follow me @Chosler88
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