DEL CITY — After going down hard and sustaining a nasty cut on Thursday, there was no guarantee that Norman High senior Sam Blodgett would be able to make it into the game on Friday.
But he did. Sporting a large bandage over his left eye, Blodgett toughed it out for the Tigers and delivered a much-needed gritty performance, delivering 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
But it wasn’t enough for the Tigers, who lost 62-53 to Class 5A’s No. 6 Del City in a back-and-forth game that showed both how good this NHS team can be as well as how far it has to go.
NHS responded well early to Del City’s fast-paced offense and aggressive defense. The Tigers forced 13 turnovers in the first half while giving it just eight. That allowed them to stick with Del City early and even take a 22-20 lead midway through the second quarter.
But things went downhill from there. NHS made a series of unforced turnovers in the third quarter that changed the flow of the game and behind eight straight points from Brett Cannon Del City, went on an 18-7 run that forced NHS to play from behind the rest of the way.
“Some days you need some breaks and you just don’t get them,” coach Matt Thornton said. “I was proud of our kids and the way they battled tonight. We just didn’t hit enough shots or get enough stops. It was just one of those days where things don’t break your way.”
Despite falling behind by as much as 16, NHS made several runs late in the game, cutting the lead to eight points several times and even to 56-50 with 1:30 left in the game. But that was as close as the Tigers would get and the Eagles took care of the ball and knocked down their free throws to put the game away.
Playing without the injured Jay Finley for just their second game, the Tigers were sharper than on Thursday but still suffered several long offensive droughts that made keeping up with the athletic Eagles more difficult.
Blodgett was a bright spot for NHS. Playing with a dozen stitches after hitting the ground hard on Thursday, he dominated the paint for NHS.
“He’s a tough kid,” Thornton said. “He’s such a big part of what we do, and he just keeps battling and battling inside.”
Blodgett led NHS with 19 and Daniel Harper added 15 and five assists. Cannon led Del City with 20 and Breiman Alexander added 15.
NHS will round out the tournament at 10:30 a.m. today at Midwest City.