Norman North boys coach Kellen McCoy wanted to make one thing clear as he began to talk about the game his team played Friday night inside the North Gym.
“Moore is a good team …” he said.
Good thing his team knows how to win.
The Timberwolves did not land the first blow, did not come out with all the energy they and their coach would have preferred. But they hung and, down the stretch, eventually, thrived.
Moore’s Dylan McDougal’s buzzer-beating 3 from the right corner forged a 55-52 final North will take.
“We just had to rally and trust our teammates,” North point guard Jaylon White said. “That’s how we came up with a win.”
White led everybody with 23 points, yet his fortunes mirrored his team’s. At no point did he get hot and go off and at no point did the game present itself to him easily.
He scored no less than four points and no more than seven in any quarter. Making 7 of 15 shots and 6 of 7 free throws, he dropped them here and there, never letting the Lions get away.
That’s the way it went for the T-Wolves, who appeared to come to peace with the idea that, short their best game, they were in for a grinder.
Caelin Hearne missed his first six shots, but made his last two and made three of four free throws to finish with seven points to go with the 10 rebounds he was grabbing the whole way.
Kayden Carter struggled to find his chances and finished with only seven shot attempts. But he made five of them, including his only two attempts and his only two free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with 12 points, helping North to finally pull away.
The T-Wolves (14-3) entered ranked No. 4, 11 spots in front of the No. 15 Lions (11-6), despite the gaudy win-loss record Moore brought into the night.
The T-Wolves are just the kind of team the Lions could make a big splash against by beating.
They were absolutely in the game, leading 13-5 early and not trailing at all until White blew an easy chance in the paint only to grab his own miss to make a much tougher shot that put the T-Wolves on top 33-32 with 1:55 remaining in third quarter.
If that made it appear North was finally teed up to drive Moore off the court, it just wasn’t that kind of game.
North did not trail after White hit a 3-pointer that made it 44-42 with 3:28 remaining. Yet, nor was it the finisher.
The contest was tied again 46-46. Moore also scored to get within 48-47 and 50-49. White hit his last two free throws to make it 52-49 with 31 seconds remaining and a following deuce from Hearne finally put the game away.
Malachi Lee and McDougal each finished with 14 points for the Lions. Lee added seven rebounds and five assists, as well. Marcus Dickins finished with 12 points.
Jacob Yohn only finished with five points for North, but his four assists helped keep the T-Wolves going on a difficult night.
“They play very hard, they’re very well coached and they came out and jumped on us and got ahead early,” McCoy said. “But our guys, we’ve had a lot of close games this season … and we just knew late, when it was time, we needed to lock down on defense, get some stops and figure out some ways to get some offense going.”
The defense was actually there pretty much the whole time, and the offense materialized when it had to.
The T-Wolves scored 9, 13 and 13 points the first three quarters, but 20 in the last.
“Every fourth quarter shows what team we can be,” White said.
North may have to play another good one tonight. At 6, in a make-up, the T-Wolves tip off at No. 5 Edmond North.