OKLAHOMA CITY — For the second straight day, Norman North was good enough to win at the Bishop McGuinness Classic. This time it was a 73-58 victory over Yukon on Friday night thanks to senior Kairo Rutledge’s best game of the season.
But, unlike Thursday’s win over Guthrie when North “sleepwalked” its way to a victory, coach Bryan Merrit said the Timberwolves came out focused and energetic on Friday.
“We were ready to play tonight, and we played a lot harder,” he said. “That was good to see.”
In Friday’s semifinal against Yukon (4-5), North (7-1) started off quickly before Yukon began to tighten things up. The undersized Millers hit enough shots to stick around and even briefly take the lead at 15-13 in the second quarter as the Timberwolves suffered through a stretch of poor ball movement and forced shots.
That was when Rutledge stepped up. The 6-5 senior used a series of feeds from his teammates to go to work on the inside, overpowering even the double-teams the Millers were throwing his way on his way to a career-high 19 points.
His emergence sparked the Timberwolves, who used Rutledge’s 13 first-half points to go on a 22-8 run and take control of the game with a 40-24 halftime lead.
“It feels pretty good to have a breakout game like tonight,” Rutledge said. “My teammates got me the ball and I caught a rhythm in the second quarter and just kept rolling. For me to have this kind of big game, it felt pretty good, and I hope it’s not my last.”
Kairo’s emergence was enough for North to take control. The T-Wolves led by double digits the rest of the way in what was a physical and at times sloppy contest. The teams combined to shoot 53 free throws in the game while spending nearly the entire game in the bonus.