NORMAN — Already thin on the bench, things went from bad to worse for Norman North in the first quarter of Saturday’s regional final against Mustang. Starter Lindy Waters went down with an ankle sprain just two minutes into the game. The sophomore tried first to walk it off and later to return to the game but was unable to stay in.
With Waters out, the T-Wolves — already playing without several key role players — couldn’t keep up with Mustang, which pulled away for a 76-66 victory.
The win sends the regional title to Mustang and North into the loser’s bracket. The Timberwolves can still make the state tournament, but must win two games in a row, beginning with a Friday game against Southmoore.
On Saturday, it was a lack of rebounding that doomed the T-Wolves (18-7). Mustang 20-5) built its lead in the first quarter by dominating the offensive glass. The Broncos outrebounded North 13-5 and led by eight after the period.
“If you had told me that Lindy basically wouldn’t play and we would only lose by 10 I would have been happy with that,” coach Bryan Merritt said. “When he went out we were basically drawing stuff up on the fly. Already not having some guys, that was tough.”
After the first quarter North began to claw back. Thanks to eight rebounds from Kairo Rutledge off the bench, the T-Wolves stemmed the tide and narrowed the lead to three points in the third quarter. But Mustang protected its lead and was able to hang on in the final quarter to secure the win, thanks in large part to the Broncos’ ability to attack the rim and consistently get to the free-throw line, where they shot 12 for 17.
With Waters out, the T-Wolves were forced to look elsewhere for offense. They found it in a balanced attack that was led by 22 from Marcus Dickinson but had three other players with at least nine points. Rutledge added 10 to go along with the eight rebounds, and Payton Prince had 11 points as well.