CHOCTAW — For the third time this season, Norman North and Southmoore faced off. Even though the Timberwolves had won the previous two matchups handily, Friday night’s encounter had much more riding on it.
It didn’t seem to matter to North, as they rolled to an 86-58 victory in the area tournament in Choctaw.
The loss ended the SaberCats’ season, but not before they put up a fight.
After falling behind early, the Timberwolves turned up the pressure on defense. They started attacking the Southmoore ball handlers and forcing turnovers, which led to easy transition baskets. That included Marcus Dickinson throwing down a thunderous two-handed dunk to power North to a 19-13 first quarter lead.
Trae Young found his shooting touch early and began to pull up from 25-feet, drilling 3-pointers. When the ‘Cats ran out to get a hand in his face, he was able to drive by them for layups.
“It helps me a lot,” Young said. “They respect me when I shoot. When they respect me, they jump.”
With Justin Bean lost for the postseason, the SaberCats’ already short bench got even smaller. But what they missed most was his all out hustle on the boards and defense.
It was Brandon Mosby, Darius Hodge and Cooper Battiste who picked up the slack for the SaberCats in those departments. They trailed the T-Wolves 41-34 at halftime.
North’s front-line started to take over the game in the third quarter. Payton Prince, Lindy Waters and Kairo Rutledge controlled the boards and got easy putbacks.
Prince posted up in the paint at will and dominated. The ‘Cats had no one big enough to keep him out, so he had his way at times.
When the SaberCats’ outside shooting dried up, they couldn’t find any other ways to consistently put the ball in the hole. North pulled ahead by 23 points heading into the fourth.
Southmoore never threatened in the final period.
“Coach Merritt got in our butt the second half and told us. ‘Y’all better come out here and get this W,’” Prince said. “We’ve gone six months working this hard and you don’t want to go home. We still have to eat.”
Young led all scorers with 21 points. Prince added 20.
Battiste scored 14 for the ‘Cats. Dunya Rice chipped in with 12.