By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — Norman High and Westmoore met for the third time this season on Tuesday night. And after an overtime classic won by NHS on a Jay Finley buzzer-beater in the first meeting and a narrow Westmoore victory in the second, the hundreds of fans who turned out for the rubber match expected something special.
They didn’t leave disappointed.
Westmoore defeated Norman High 69-66 in a back-and-forth game that played out more like a playoff game than a near-meaningless contest in the final week of the regular season.
Westmoore’s Tripp Fuller was Tuesday’s hero, despite Finley’s best attempts at rekindling the magic from the Tigers’ overtime win over Westmoore in the championship game of the Durant Classic. And, after Finley hit a deep three with 30 seconds left to tie at 66, it looked like he might well do that.
But Fuller, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds, backed down two Tiger defenders and hit an off-balance layup while getting fouled to put Westmoore on top with 3 seconds remaining. After Fuller sank the free throw, Finley was left to try a halfcourt 3-pointer that hit the backboard and rolled out of the rim.
Fuller was unstoppable. His persistence in the lane, despite battling foul trouble of his own, kept the Tigers in foul trouble throughout. Tigers Ryan Cox and Sam Blodgett both fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to front him and not give up second chances, but they were still able to get second-chance opportunities,” NHS coach Matt
Thornton said. “There’s a couple of things we still need to work on.”
The Tigers also struggled at the free-throw line. While the Jaguars went 13 for 17, the Tigers struggled to hit 6 of 13. Along with occasional failure to block out, it was the most damaging mistake the Tigers made.
“The little things cost us tonight,” sophomore guard Cooper Clark said. “Defensively, we played them as well as we could, but we made mistakes on the little stuff.”
Clark led NHS with 20 points in a game marked by hot shooting beyond the arc. The two squads combined to hit 16 three-pointers, with Westmoore’s Trey Ayala leading the way with four on his way to 14 points.
Sam Blodgett added 16 and six rebounds for NHS, and was able to connect early and often with Daniel Harper, who filled up the stat sheet with nine points, five rebounds and seven assists. The duo propelled NHS to a 35-30 halftime lead, a lead that disappeared as Westmoore went on a 12-5 run in the third quarter to take its first lead.
That set up a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands several times, with each squad responding to big shots with one of its own, all the way to the buzzer.
Next up for NHS is the regular-season finale, a Crosstown Clash at home at 7:45 p.m. against Norman North.
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