NORMAN — In the season opener against Southmoore, Norman High turned in its worst offensive performance of the year, scoring just 34 points in a 56-34 loss.
That was far from the case on Tuesday, when the Tigers turned in one of their better shooting nights on their way to a 53-48 victory.
It was another impressive victory over a team that defeated the Tigers earlier in the season, following a big win over Moore 10 days ago. Just like that game, NHS shot the ball well on Tuesday and exploited a size advantage inside.
Credit Sam Blodgett for that. The senior was dominant in the paint from the beginning, and his seven points in the first five minutes set the tone as NHS jumped on top 12-8. The Tigers extended that lead throughout the game until a late SaberCat run made it interesting down the stretch.
There, too, Blodgett came up big for the Tigers, along with sophomore Cooper Clark. Both hit shots that kept the Tigers up by at least two possessions and kept Southmoore from ever completely getting back into the game. The final dagger came with just over two minutes to play, when Jay Finley, playing in his first game back from a stress fracture, hit a three to put the Tigers up 51-42.
Blodgett finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds while also forcing the SaberCats to pass up numerous close shots or alter shots in the paint.
“This was a big game for us,” he said. “We weren’t focused on what happened earlier in the year, we were more concerned about the playoff picture. They were below us going into this game, and we had to win to keep it that way.”
While the Tigers were able to put points on the board, they didn’t come easy. A physical game from the tipoff, there were no easy baskets for either squad. But the Tigers held the advantage on the boards, outrebounding the SaberCats 32-21, and that proved to be the difference in a game that came down to just a few offensive rebounds and putbacks.
“It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it,” coach Matt Thornton said. “Part of that was us trying to get Jay back into the mix. But it was also one of those nights where we just couldn’t get everyone going. But we’ll take a win any way we can get it.”
For Finley, who returned to the lineup a week earlier than originally anticipated, it was a successful but at times frustrating return. He didn’t show any lingering sign of injury, but he was clearly frustrated by several open shots he missed. He finished with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting and added a pair of assists.
Next up is a chance for the Tigers to “shock the world,” as Thornton put it, with No. 1 Midwest City visiting Norman on Friday.
“We need a couple good days of practice to start with,” Blodgett said after the game. “And we need to get a few good bounces and play our butts off.”
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