OWASSO — Some games, you’re just supposed to win. Something happens and you know.
Any number of times the first 28 or so minutes Friday night against Owasso, the Norman North boys might have thought they’d experienced just such moments.
Like when Daniel Worthing banked the ball of the back of a Ram on a second-quarter under-the-basket inbound, creating a self-assisted layup for his only two points.
Or the two passes Jacob Yohn moved toward to receive, practicing an eternal fundamental to save certain turnovers in a tight game.
If not then, the Timberwolves were surely bound to win on a night Jaylon White hit back-to-back unassisted third-quarter 3-pointers, putting North up nine points.
They were terrific and singular plays, but turned out to be fool’s gold as deciders of the Class 6A area tourney winner’s bracket final the T-Wolves eventually claimed 59-55 to go back to their first state tourney in three seasons.
Because even after White’s daggers, the Rams found themselves in the bonus early in the fourth quarter and made 10 straight free throws, clawing back within 56-55 with 3 minutes remaining and a partisan, mostly masked, yet too-large-to-be-socially-distanced crowd coming to its feet.
Three consecutive North turnovers were not helping, either.
That was when Kayden Carter, seemingly about to make it four straight giveaways, left his feet without a plan, picking up his dribble near the left baseline.
“I just kind of got up in the air, couldn’t come down, I didn’t want to travel,” Carter said. “I just kind of flipped it in.”
What the right-handed Carter did was execute an impromptu 10-foot sky hook with his left hand, as though possessed by the spirit of the still very much alive Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“He came through and made a big shot,” White said.
The ball dropping through the net took the starch out of the Rams, their fans and righted North’s fortunes all at the same time.
The T-Wolves turned in a game of big plays, but Carter’s was the most improbable and the clincher.
Owasso did not score again and North only a point, yet that was more than enough to lift the T-Wolves (18-4) to their third straight playoff victory and if they can win three more, they’ll have claimed the program’s first state championship.
White led the T-Wolves with 23 points, making 8 of 10 shots and all four of his 3-point attempts, yet a turned ankle slowed him in the fourth quarter, the only frame he failed to score.
Before Carter hit his hook, it was back-to-back 3-pointers from Caelin Hearne that lifted the T-Wolves to their biggest lead, 56-46, in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Hearne led the T-Wolves with eight rebounds, as well, one more than Carter.
Trenton Ellison led the Rams (16-3) with 17 points. Brandon Armstrong added 12 and Kyler Mann 10.
“We talked about keeping our composure,” North coach Kellen McCoy said. “I told our guys during the week, we’re going to get hit in the mouth, we’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to get up, we’ve got to hit back … We fought through adversity and made some big tough plays down the stretch.”
Owasso led 14-12 after a quarter and most of the second-quarter, too, though North took the lead for good scoring on back-to-back possessions a couple of minutes before the half.
They were exciting.
The first basket was Worthing’s pass to himself under the basket. The second came off Carter’s offensive rebound of a Worthing miss, after which he found Hearne, who buried a 3 despite being fouled.
Hearne did not convert the four-point play but North led 28-26 and was on its way thanks to so many more moments that followed.
“I feel like, right now,” White said, “we’re just peaking.”
The T-Wolves could not have picked a better time.