CHOCTAW — In the end, you have to hit shots. You probably have to rebound and take care of the ball, too, but those were not the killers the Norman High girls experienced.
Against a very athletic bunch of SaberCats whose plan was to leverage all of its speed, size and quickness in an effort to get to the game that would get it to the Class 6A state tournament, the Tigers could not find the net.
Ahead after a quarter, leading halfway through the second and on the edge of making it a six-point game in the opening moments of the fourth, NHS went down 49-34 in a losers’ bracket Class 6A area contest Thursday night at Choctaw High School.
Southmoore moved one win from its first state tournament. The SaberCats, fourth-ranked and 21-4, meet Putnam City at 3 p.m. Saturday at Harrah High School.
The SaberCats beat the Tigers on the boards 36-22, yet most of the advantage came early, when NHS managed to keep pace.
Taylor Ely led the Tigers with 22 points, half of them in the first half when it was close, only two in the third quarter and nine over the final stanza when she was the only Tiger who scored. What NHS needed were a few more baskets from other sources along the way.
The SaberCats countered with the one-two punch of Kayla Tucker outside and Serithia Hawkins inside.
Tucker finished with 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers that only seemed to come from the parking lot, but actually came from about seven feet beyond the 3-point arc. Hawkins did her work inside and on the glass, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Rebounding,” Copeland said, was the story of the game in her mind. “Sometimes, I think they shoot the first shot so they can go get it.”
Ely’s first basket of the fourth quarter brought the Tigers within 34-27, before Tucker answered with her second tape-measure 3. Next NHS’ Albany Anderson missed a pair of free throws, yet that was followed by another Ely basket that made it 37-29.
The Tigers were almost within two beyond-the-arc conversions with plenty of time remaining.
“You get it to six and it’s a two possession game,” Copeland said. “And the way Bethany (Cox) and Taylor can shoot the ball, who knows?.”
Cox, though, endured a rough game, only getting a single 3-pointer to fall. Ely’s greatest support in the scoring column came from point guard Chandler Coale, who finished with six points, two assists and a rare blocked shot.
“We never really got it over the hump,” said Anderson, a senior who scored only three points, but who finally made the Tigers competitive on the glass with eight rebounds . “We kind of stayed neutral. We couldn’t get enough urgency at the end. We couldn’t finish.”
But while Southmoore’s season lives, the Tigers, 9-17, at least don’t leave empty-handed. Shocking Midwest City the opening night of the playoffs took care of that.
“Winning that game, finally being able to beat that top-10 team gives us a world of confidence going into next season,” Copeland said. “That was huge.”
It kept the Tigers going until Thursday, when they were close for a long time, but needed a few more shots to fall.
Follow me @clayhorning