NORMAN — When NHS travels to face No. 10 Edmond North tonight in what amounts to a road game at Edmond Memorial, the Tigers will be the heavy underdog. But they do have a few advantages coach Matt Thornton hopes to exploit.
First among those is an advantage inside with Sam Blodgett. The senior center has proven to be dangerous if he’s single-guarded on the block, and against bigger competition, he has run the pick-and-roll with point guard Daniel Harper down to perfection. Against the Huskies, Thornton expects them to collapse in on Blodgett, opening up shots for the Tigers’ shooters.
“I really like our matchup,” he said. “They’re going to give us shots. We just have to hit them.”
Putnam City no stranger to close games: If Norman North can defeat Putnam City West tonight, the next step for the T-Wolves is a contest against second-ranked Putnam City. And if they do, chances are it would be a tight game against the Pirates, who have excelled in such games this season.
Putnam City (22-1) has lost just once this year, to Eisenhower on Jan. 11. But the Pirates have had plenty of close calls. They have two overtime victories this season, one coming in an 81-80 thriller over Mustang early in the season, and the other coming to Putnam City West, the T-Wolves’ first round opponent, a month ago.
Putnam City is 4-1 in games decided by 10 points or less and has the ability to lock down opponents late in the game. It will be a challenge for an explosive but sometimes inconsistent North offense to overcome if the Timberwolves can get past Putnam City West.
Playoff path tough for Tigers: Like North, NHS also faces a tough second-round matchup if it can come away with a win tonight. While North would face off against No. 2 Putnam City, the Tigers would face the team tied with the Pirates for that ranking, a dominant Edmond Memorial squad.
The two teams have met twice before this season, with Memorial (18-2) coming away with a 52-34 win on Dec. 14 and following it up with a 73-59 victory two weeks ago.
The biggest challenge for NHS would be guarding Edmond Memorial’s Shaquille Morris, a Wichita State signee who put away the last meeting by scoring 10 straight points, with six of them coming on dunks, to turn a 34-32 game into a 12-point Bulldog lead. The senior wraps defenses around him, and the Tigers have to find a way to slow him down if they want to pull off the upset.
But NHS has shown that if it can contain Morris or get him in foul trouble, the Tigers have the ability to run with the rest of Edmond Memorial’s roster. They were competitive in both previous meetings and remained within striking distance until late in the game.
“It seemed like every time we would get close, we just couldn’t get that next possession we needed,” coach Matt Thornton said after the Bulldogs defeated NHS last month. “We played well at times and sometimes you can see that peek of brilliance, but other times, it disappears.”