NORMAN — After Norman High’s surprising 44-38 upset of Midwest City in the elimination round at the outset of the Class 6A playoffs, coach Nichole Copeland told her team they had nothing to lose. It was a message that resonated with the Tigers.
“Beating Midwest City was a huge step for us,” senior Bethany Cox said after the win that guaranteed the Tigers at least two more games. “It’s a great experience.”
Now, even after a disappointing 43-33 loss to North in the regional championship, Copeland’s message hasn’t changed.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we just have to come out ready to play,” she said. “We have another chance.”
NHS (9-16) is now just two wins short of the state tournament. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that road became a little more difficult after Edmond Memorial (15-8) upset fourth-ranked Southmoore (20-4) on Saturday. That means NHS must defeat Southmoore at 8 p.m. today in Choctaw and then win another game to advance to state.
Southmoore is an athletic team that has competed all season like a serious state-title contender. The SaberCats own a pair of impressive wins over No. 8 Norman North and Midwest City this season, and also fell by just three points to second-ranked Muskogee. Southmoore beat NHS 48-27 in the season opener and again 56-43 on Jan. 29.
But it’s in that last loss that Copeland is drawing hope. The Tigers came out focused and intense in that game, with Copeland making just one substitution in the contest. Her goal that game was to let the SaberCats know they were in for “a battle,” something she felt the Tigers had accomplished by the end.
And along the way NHS nearly pulled off the upset. They were down just four points at halftime and cut the deficit to just one point early in the second half before Cox picked up her fourth foul and was forced to sit. That allowed the SaberCats to regain the momentum, and they used an 11-0 run to put the game away.
NHS got 24 points from Taylor Ely and 10 from Cox in the loss, while Albany Anderson was active on the glass and the defensive end, harassing the SaberCats into several turnovers and bad fouls. It was one of the Tigers’ best performances of the year, and Copeland believes they have it in them again.
“We had them at our place before we got in foul trouble,” she said. “We’ll be ready. We’ll watch the film and figure out exactly what we need to do to take away what they want to do. Maybe we’ll play better now that our backs are to the wall.”
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