NORMAN — Jay Finley began his senior season like he never got the chance to in his junior year. The Norman High guard was injured for all of last year, but returned to the floor with a bang in 2012, leading the Tigers in scoring and even winning the Durant Lion Classic with a buzzer-beater for NHS.
But thanks to a stress fracture in his back, Finley is once against out of the lineup, this time for up to six weeks. The injury was discovered last week and kept the senior out of the Mid-Del Holiday Classic, the first three of about a dozen games Finley is expected to miss.
Six weeks away would bring Finley back for the final week of the regular season, when NHS is scheduled to play Westmoore and Norman North before starting regionals.
Despite the setback, Finley said he is ready to dive headfirst into his rehab regimen, which begins today. The first step is riding the stationary bike at practice and working to strengthen his back, and he vowed to come back stronger.
Tigers’ offense struggles in Finley’s absence: Finley can’t return soon enough for NHS. The Tigers’ offense looked listless at times over the weekend without him, and long scoring droughts marked each of their three narrow losses in the tournament.
Against both Putnam City North and Enid, the Tigers held big leads in the second half only to watch it disappear in the final quarter and lose the lead in the final minutes. It’s a problem that’s been much more evident without Finley, an explosive scorer who can stretch the floor with his length and his jump shot.
“We were out of sync,” coach Matt Thornton said after the PC North game. “We weren’t able to make enough plays down the stretch to win. I think Jay being gone was a part of that.”
Tournament provides valuable experience: With two games delayed by the football team’s run to a state title and no tournament to open the season, the Timberwolves found themselves in the unusual position of having played only three games by Christmas. When North met NHS in the Crosstown Clash last week, it was the third game of the year for the Timberwolves, as opposed to the eighth for the Tigers.
It may have been a blessing in disguise. With two starters (Payton Prince and Quan Hogan) coming over from the football team, the extra time in the gym may have paid off. With a trip to Ardmore over the weekend, the T-Wolves doubled the games they’ve played and picked up their second and third victories of the season in taking third place.
In their final game against Dumas, Texas, the Timberwolves showed some signs of growth. After taking a big lead and then watching it whittle away, they responded with a strong finish to close out the game.
“We played pretty well,” coach Butch Roberts said. “We were sloppy with the ball when we got ahead, but we took care of business of the first half.”
NHS wrestling gets win during break: Norman High picked up its first dual victory of their year last week when the Tigers faced off against Edmond Memorial. Picking up key victories from Nick Webb at 220 pounds and Jake Stinson at 285, the Tigers prevailed 37-33.
It was an important win for NHS after the Tigers dropped a close dual to Norman North and continued a trend of strong performances that begin when NHS hosted its first-ever pool tournament two weeks ago.
In that tournament the Tigers had one victor in Nigel Jollifie and had another two wrestlers finish in second place, with Derek Ross accomplishing the feat at 113 pounds and Daniel Mbainayel doing so at 126.
The Tigers will next take to the mat at a tournament on Saturday in Salina, Kansas.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com